I notice that the President's official adviser is here. Perhaps, he could tell us whether the President proposes to attend.
Vol. 18 No. 22
I notice that the President's official adviser is here. Perhaps, he could tell us whether the President proposes to attend.
We shall proceed with the debate.
Last night, prior to moving the adjournment of the debate, I had made an emphatic protest regarding the absence of the President and the Minister associated with this House from this debate. I did anticipate that, as a sequel to that, when we met here to-day, there would be either an explanation or an apology. I am at a loss to understand what the meaning is of this abstention from our deliberations on the part of the Ministers to whom I refer. Is the conception of democratic deliberation which animates them that criticism of Ministers must not be heard, that any contributions to debate must be fulsome adulation of Ministers? If that is their conception, they are riding for a fall. If they are going to face up to the tasks and responsibilities of Ministerial office in a democratic Assembly, they will have to take the criticism as well as the admiration. On last Saturday I received the notice which I referred to yesterday regarding the procedure in respect of this debate. It wound up with this:—
"The President of the Executive Council, who is in charge of the Bill, has been informed of this procedure by the Cathaoirleach and has replied that it is quite satisfactory to him."
I do not want to delay the House at any great length on that matter, but I do say that it is a significant commentary upon the whole motive and policy behind this Bill: the refusal of the Government and of Ministers to face facts and to meet criticisms of their policy and their measures. It is this kind of Executive Council and Ministry that we had Senator O'Neill referring to last evening when he said that if the President had not taken this action by introducing this Bill he would have gone down to the lowest depths of the Senator's contempt. There is an old saying "that fools rush in where angels fear to tread," and it is significant that the only voice raised in this Assembly so far in defence of the Ministerial policy has been Senator O'Neill's.
The President's statement yesterday in presenting this Bill to the House was brief: it was formal—emotionless. It reminded me of nothing so much as the act of an official outside a prison wall annuoncing that the prisoner had been executed in accordance with all the due formalities of the law. If that was the President's conception of the function that he was discharging yesterday before he made his hurried retirement from the Seanad he ought, I think, to realise that the Seanad is not dead yet. Possibly in the still hours of last night he was murmuring to himself the refrain of the music-hall song current in England some time ago: "He's dead but he won't lie down." The Seanad is here defending not merely the existence of this House but the principles upon which civilised society is based and without which there can only be either undisputed unchallenged tyranny or chaos.
Like some other Senators who have spoken on the Bill I anticipated that we would hear very little from the President in introducing this Bill, and for that reason I came to the conclusion that his case for the Bill would have to be found in the records of the Dáil. I studied these laboriously. I went through the speeches made in the Dáil, and having done so, I came to this conclusion: that the case made by the President was so saturated with the spirit of "I come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him," that there would be little effective purpose served by trying to convince him or his Ministers of the infirmity of his arguments and the weakness of his reasoning. He introduced this Bill not for the purpose of reasoning with the members of this House but in an attempt to overawe them: not to convince but to confuse, not to throw any light upon a constitutional problem but to darken counsel and stimulate antagonisms which statesmanship would try to allay. The rôle of the President in the whole debate in the other House was the very negation of statesmanship. It was the rôle of a furious politician in a desperate hurry to achieve a dubious objective before a disillusioned and outraged electorate had stripped him of the little brief authority which they had accorded him some time ago.
We have a responsibility not only to ourselves, to our self-respect, but to the citizens of this State to present a truer picture of what the position is than anything that has fallen from the lips of the President so far. I think that this House, the Oireachtas, and this State, is under a deep obligation to the Chairman of this House for the masterly manner in which he presented yesterday a picture of the position, a picture vastly different from that which had been put forward by the sponsors of the Bill. I hope that the statement of our Chairman will not be left buried in the records of this House, but that it will get publicity in the most ample fashion.
On the Final Stage of the Bill in the Dáil the President was pleased to be derisively jocular in regard to the assertion made by some critics in that House: that the abolition of the Seanad meant the destruction of the safeguards of democratic rights in this State. Most people, I think, will fail to see any humour in that assertion. To the average citizen it was a statement of plain, bald prosaic fact. With the Seanad gone, with an organised regimented Party majority, no matter how small, in the other House, a majority prepared to do, without demur, exactly what the Executive Council may wish it to do, will any supporters of the Ministry who may be present deny that with such a position every vestige of democratic right enshrined in the Constitution remains there solely at the pleasure and will of the Executive Council? If that Executive Council so desired and issued a decree or an order to that obedient majority Party in the other House, in a half dozen hours every vestige of democratic right in the Constitution could be swept away. Will they deny further, that while the Seanad remains as one House of the Oireachtas that cannot happen? If they admit these premises, I cannot see how they can deny, or even pretend to disbelieve, that the existence of the Seanad is of vital concern to every citizen, and stands as a safeguard for every democratic right in the Constitution.
I am fully aware of the reply which the President, if he were here, would make to that. I heard him make the reply in the other House more than once. His reply would be, that when a dictator like Napoleon comes along, it does not matter whether it is a Single Chamber or a Double Chamber government that exists, the dictator will sweep them aside. I would remind him, however, that the position we are discussing is not the circumstances which usher in a personality of the titanic genius of Napoleon. We are not discussing a position in terms of Napoleons. Every student of history knows that when a Napoleon comes along a situation arises where normal procedure and normal precautions are entirely inadequate to cope with it. We are not dealing with Napoleons, we are dealing with manoeuvring politicians, who are trying to subvert the constitutional rights of the citizens of this State for their own ends. In such circumstances, I think it is unchallengeable that the existence of a Single Chamber facilitates the objectives and the schemes of such types of politicians, and that the existence of a Second House interposes obstacles between them and the achievement of their designs. The President in opening occupied four columns of the Official Debates on the Second Reading of the Bill in the Dáil, and he occupied 33 columns in the concluding debate. But all that is relevant to this measure in the 37 columns of the Official Debates in the Dáil can be summarised under two heads, one, his denunciation of Second Chambers in general; and, two, his denunciation of this Second Chamber in particular. Senator Bagwell quoted a statement of the President yesterday in this connection. I should like to call attention to it again. The quotation is from the Official Debates of April 19th, column 2109:—
"I was put on a Joint Committee of this House and of the Seanad in 1928 to consider what changes might be made in the Constitution and in the powers of the Seanad. I attended every meeting of that Committee and I listened to the arguments put forward by the various members of it; I read books on Second Chambers and their history and their value as a part of governmental machinery, and during all that time I did not hear a single good argument which would convince me that, if we were starting here a new Constitution, a Second Chamber was either necessary or fundamentally useful."
Again a little further on he said:
"I kept an open mind during all these years, ready to hear from any source any suggestion as to how a Second Chamber that would be really useful might be constructed, and in all these years, with open ears and ready to receive any suggestion in an attitude favourable to the acceptance of such a suggestion, I have never been able to get, in anything I read or listened to, a suggestion that would satisfy me that it was worth while spending money on a Second Chamber."
One cannot forbear having some degree of commiseration for the man who could make such a confession in the face of the facts of history. It reveals an infirmity of mind, I think, which excites one's pity. There are people who are colour blind, who cannot distinguish one colour from another; there are people who are stone deaf, who cannot distinguish one note of music from another, but how are we to define people with a mind that cannot distinguish between fact and fallacy, between sound reasoning and sophistic theorising? The only definition of that state of mind, I can consider, is that it is intellectually fogbound. The facts of history are against the President's thesis, emphatically against it. The historical contradiction of his argument does not rest upon the tenacious revival of what he terms the remnants of the defensive armour of the ascendancy class. From a variety of States, vastly different in their conditions and outlook and by no means identical in their Constitutions, evidence is advanceable that the experiences of most progressive nations have taught them the wisdom and the necessity of creating and adhering to the bi-cameral system in their Parliamentary institutions. He invoked in a fugitive sort of way two or three names in support of his contention. Franklin, he said, stood for the Single Chamber; and Adams, he said, stood for a Single Chamber. Neither were mean political thinkers. It would have been informative if the President had gone a little more fully into the views of these eminent men, in this connection, because his reference was a scamped, passing reference and the object of it might be much clearer. I presume the President meant John Adams, the second President of the United States. If that is so, it is interesting to know that in 1787 this man who, according to the President, is no mean thinker, and stood for a Single Chamber, published a book in defence of the Constitution of the Government of the United States, in which he suggested that the rich, the well-born and the able should be set apart from other men in the Senate.
Now, as to Franklin, in what sense is the presumed belief of Franklin—I presume he did believe in a Single Chamber—in what sense is his advocacy of the Single Chamber affected by the issue raised by this measure? If it be a fact that he advocated a Single Chamber legislature for the States in 1787, when the Constitution of America was being hammered out, how does that view of Franklin stand in the light of the subsequent events in American history, the events which followed the adoption of the Federal Constitution? The fathers of the American Constitution had painful experience of the Single Chamber form of Parliament. They were not unlearned in the general constitutional history and practice of other nations. They did not come to their decision as to the system that they would adopt without long and careful deliberation and the examination of all considerations involved. They decided in favour of the bicameral system. Surely the President would not hazard the assertion that the existence of the Second Chamber in America, the Senate, has not been more fully justified? Without it it is extremely doubtful if the unity and the cohesion of the United States could ever have been achieved. If it be true, as one would infer from the President's references to Franklin, that Franklin was opposed to the creation of the Senate in America at that time, then surely the events that have followed since have falsified the theory of Franklin in that respect and more than vindicated the attitude of those who favoured a two Chamber system in America. The President may argue that the purpose of the Senate is to strengthen the Federal system. That is true, but the danger of a breakup of the Federal system in America has long since passed away, but the necessity and the usefulness of the Second House there have not passed away with it.
I was glad to hear the Chairman yesterday refer to Alexander Hamilton, the greatest name in American constitutional history, and probably one of the most profound thinkers on constitutional matters that the world has ever known. His extracts were illuminating, but I should like to add one more. In the Federalist, a collection of papers prepared prior to the acceptance of the Federal Constitution in America, the various aspects of the Constitution were set out. I think it was from one of these papers, the Federalist, the Chairman quoted yesterday. In No. 27 Alexander Hamilton, referring to the Senate, wrote:—
"There is reason to expect that this branch will generally be composed with peculiar care and judgment; that these circumstances promise greater knowledge and more extensive information in the national councils, and that they will be less apt to be tainted by the spirit of faction, and more out of the reach of those occasional ill-humours, or temporary prejudices and propensities, which in smaller societies frequently contaminate the public councils, beget injustice and oppression of a part of the community, and engender schemes which, though they gratify a momentary inclination or desire, terminate in general distress, dissatisfaction, and disgust."
Those declarations and statements of Hamilton are as applicable to the position here to-day under our Constition and under the institutions that are set up under our Constitution as they were the day that he wrote them to educate the people of the United States; but they are brushed aside. I wonder has the President of the Executive Council of this State ever heard of Alexander Hamilton? I wonder has he ever heard that a big number of the States of America had to be educated by the process of writings which Hamilton and his colleagues indulged in? If he has, I wonder how he could indulge in the statement which I have already quoted—that he has heard of, or read nothing, that would convince him of any useful purpose of a Second Chamber?
The President says further:
"I admit freely that if you can produce for me a system to show how the Seanad can be constituted of men of extraordinary probity, who will not be influenced by political considerations, who will be all-wise on all these things, then we can have a Second Chamber as a safeguard. When you can produce a Constitution that will give the Irish people such a safeguard then I say you will have solved the problem but it has not been done yet."
I quote from the Dáil Debates of 19th April, column 2122. The President is a little disingenuous in putting forward such a contention as that. He talks of an institution which is above all human frailties, a collection of individuals who, like Cæsar's wife, are above suspicion and he wishes to convince undiscerning individuals that because it is impossible to get such an ideal set of men, it is therefore futile to attempt to secure a Second Chamber. I wonder is the President's idea of an Assembly
"constituted of men of extraordinary probity who will not be influenced by political considerations, who will be all-wise on all these things"
—I wonder is his idea of such a Chamber 60 replicas of himself? If we had that we would have something more than a Second Chamber. We would have something which the President's supporters would possibly call a celestial Chamber.
More likely a chamber of horrors.
My colleague has taken the word out of my mouth. I am afraid the ordinary people in the country would regard it as a chamber of horrors.
The electorate, of course, have said so.
Are we now to get the theory, from Senator Dowdall, that the President has got a mandate for the construction of a Second Chamber to replace the last?
A chamber of horrors according to the Senator's conception!
I hope when the Bill which is to create this chamber of horrors is being introduced that those who introduce it, at least, will stand by it, and see it through, and not run away at the first attack made upon it. The President would fain have us believe that he is perturbed with the idea of people in the Second Chamber acting from political considerations in connection with their functions as legislators, and he suggested that they should not take cognisance of political considerations while discharging their functions as legislators, and that if they did it should be regarded as a cardinal sin which merited the annihilation of this Assembly. Personally, I find it hard and, indeed, extremely difficult to take that suggestion seriously. When I came across that statement I looked up a dictionary to see if there was, or might be, a meaning attached to the word politics of a very sinister character. And I discovered that this was the meaning given to that word in a very good dictionary. It declared "politics is the art or science of government." Now what is this Seanad? Is it not part of the Oireachtas? Is it not part of the Legislature which has to consider and come to decisions upon measures that are to follow as statutes under which the people of this State are to live? If anybody can tell me how we are going to divorce political considerations—the consideration of the science of government—from an Assembly that has to participate in the construction of statutes, I shall be very interested to hear it. One might as well indict the medical profession for meddling in medicine, or the legal profession for interfering in matters of law. However, I doubt the realities of these professions of the President; I doubt their sincerity because there are matters on record which cast serious doubt upon both the reality and the sincerity of the President's statement in this respect. It is right and pertinent in view of the statement that the President has made that these matters should be recalled.
It will be within the recollection of all here that the present Government's predecessors, and the Party supporting the predecessors of the present Government, made a very definite and emphatic effort to try to exclude politics from the local governing bodies in the country, and to make them purely administrative councils. It will be equally within the recollection of all here that it was the Party supporting the present Government, with the robust stimulus from the President, that insisted on elections on Party lines for membership of those bodies. Now, in view of that, and that our Party thought it was a matter of enormous importance that politics should be excluded from local affairs, we have the President of the Executive Council, and his Party, insisting that politics should saturate Parties in local affairs. Our Party believes that it is very objectionable that politics should be part and parcel of those local institutions and should enter into and exercise the minds of those carrying out the functions of local institutions. Now, I should like to summon an impressive and weighty authority to give evidence to show that the President's views are very dubious. I refer to that eminent statesman and diplomat, the President's colleague, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and Vice-President of the Executive Council. He was quoted by Senator MacLoughlin yesterday and I would like to add to what Senator MacLoughlin said. Speaking on the 14th June in this House upon the Local Government (Dublin) Bill he said:—
"I do not see that there is anything wrong in bringing Party politics into local affairs...one would imagine that there was something derogatory or wrong in bringing politics into local affairs.
"Miss Browne: Party politics.
"Mr. O'Kelly: Could there be anything more stupid than to think that you could have politics without Party? For goodness sake, have a little sense. Where will you get politics anywhere in the world without some Party on one side or another? Speaking as a Minister I see nothing wrong in politics in local affairs.
"Mr. Milroy: May we take it that it is the policy of the Minister to have politics introduced into municipal affairs?
"Mr. O'Kelly: You may take anything the Minister says as the Minister's view. I say, as Minister, and I said it three years ago, when I was a candidate for the Corporation, that I stood for politics in the Municipal Council of Dublin and I got elected. Maybe I did not get as many votes as if I stood for no politics."
Now I come to the real tit-bit, the real outstanding gem of the pronouncement where the Minister comes into definite conflict with the views of the President. He says:—
"I see nothing wrong in politics in local affairs. I shall, however, go this length with those who object to politics in local affairs. In the old days there was certainly more reason, before we had a Legislature of our own, for discussing politics in local councils. There is not the same reason now for making a platform of our local councils for political affairs as there was then.... We have a Legislature of a kind now and that is the place to discuss big national issues on Party political lines and not at meetings of municipal or local authorities."
So that we have this definite conflict of views in the Executive Council as to what part politics should play in the Legislature. Now, I think it would be only fair to his colleagues that, before the President had sponsored this Bill in either the Dáil or the Seanad, he would at least have reconciled those conflicting views that exist in the Executive Council.
I made the assertion at the beginning—and I think I proved my contention—that the abolition of the Seanad means the creation of a situation which leaves the constitutional rights of the citizens at the mercy of an Executive Council. If that is not the potential prelude to dictatorship I cannot see any condition of society from which a system of dictatorship could more easily follow. We were told that they secured a mandate for the abolition of the Seanad. The President, when he quotes his own words as meaning the abolition of the Seanad as at present constituted, was merely juggling with words. Either he intended to abolish the Seanad or to reform the Seanad. The words used were characteristic of the frequent utterances of Ministers—double-edged statements. If they got a mandate for that, did those who gave them that mandate comprehend that that meant, virtually, dictatorship, and that it meant the bringing about of conditions that would lead to dictatorship? Did they understand—were they informed of the idea—that it meant the creation of political judges, of judges who would only retain their office at the will and pleasure of the Executive Council?
I am aware that the President has alleged that certain amendments have been introduced into that Bill to safeguard the position of the judges, but, as I think Senator Douglas pointed out yesterday, once the Seanad goes, once the President of the Executive Council is in command of the other House with a majority that he can wield to his own will and that will obey him, then there is no safeguard in this Bill that cannot be swept aside in a few hours.
Last night Senator O'Neill paraded for us figures of the final division in the Dáil as a justification for this Bill. What were these figures? With what authority does this Bill come before this House? It comes before this House with the authority of something representing about one-third of the total membership of the Dáil—54 votes out of 152. Is that an expression of majority opinion? I am informed that, provided there is a quorum in the other House, a majority vote is effective, but in a matter of this kind, members of this Seanad, the existence of which is involved in this matter, are entitled to question whether a vote of one-third of the elected Assembly is sufficient authority to warrant this House giving assent to this Bill. The President challenged the Opposition frequently to produce something—some system or some form of Second Chamber—which, in his opinion, would be acceptable. Ten months ago this House, when it was confronted with another Bill proposing to limit its powers, sent a Message to the Dáil asking that a joint committee be set up to inquire into this matter. As was pointed out yesterday, there was not even the courtesy of a reply. That Message still appears on the Dáil Orders of the Day. That was an honest attempt on the part of members of this House to ascertain what, if any, were the problems with regard to the constitution of this House and how they could be solved. If the President was sincere in his professions of his desire to secure an effective Seanad, that Message, at least, could have been acted on within the past 12 months and that joint committee could have met and issued its reports.
Although the President is a man of striking qualities, I do not believe that he is so omnipotent or so wise with regard to any of these things as to be able to say that he knows now what that committee would have reported if they had met. The whole tenor of his remarks was against it. He decided the issue. He was the authority. He was the sole judge. He has denounced the principle of a Second Chamber as being in conflict with the principle of democratic institutions. That is sufficient—he has given his pronouncement. He has told us that the Seanad is a danger, and from quotations of his own statements and those of certain of his Ministers we can well understand the kind of propaganda that has been used to prejudice the public mind against the Seanad. I cannot recall, in my experience of political life, anything more irrelevant, anything more lying, or anything more treacherous than the campaign that has been carried on against the Seanad. To give an instance, the leader writer of the President's own organ—I quote from the Irish Press of June 7th, 1933—said with regard to the Seanad:
"In the Twenty-Six Counties, however, the Seanad, since its first creation, has given itself the duty of obstructing public opinion and endeavouring to defeat its control of legislation."
I challenge the Irish Press to give evidence on that point or to substantiate that statement. I hope that they will print that in broad headlines to-morrow in the Irish Press. I hope that, to-night, their leader writer will get busy preparing the material to substantiate that statement. I brand it here and now as a foul and unscrupulous lie and I challenge the responsible people on that paper to refute my words.
On another question the President said:—
"Twenty months in some cases might be tolerable."
He admits the necessity for delay. I would ask what are the circumstances, what is the nature of Bills or legislation which would warrant 20 months delay? He admits that on certain occasions it would be tolerable. What is the nature of the legislation that would warrant such delay? Is it not legislation which arouses deep-seated controversy and very keen conflict of opinion? It is not minor types of legislation which would warrant such delay. It is legislation upon which there is a deep, honest conflict of opinion, where one section of this House that may be in the majority may consider that such legislation would have a calamitous effect upon the life of the State. If that is not the kind of a legislative measure which would warrant such delay, I wonder what type of legislation it is that would warrant delay? Is not that the very type of legislation that we are charged with delaying?
I have now practically completed. But I hope that before this debate terminates the cold chain of silence that has fallen upon the Government Party will be broken and that we will hear what the Leader calls the voice of the nation, the voice that stands for the will of the people, rebutting the case that has been made against this Bill. I could quote from certain speeches, but I do not wish to lower the character of the discussion by that kind of quotation.
There is just one section of this House that I would like to hear speak on this Bill. I am sorry that there are not any representatives of that section here at the moment. I should like to invoke from those who represent Labour here their views on this matter. Speaking in the Dáil on this Bill on the Second Reading on the 18th April, 1934, as reported in column 1874, Deputy Norton, Chairman of the Labour Party in the Dáil, made this statement:—
"So far as the Labour Party is concerned, it will vote for this measure. In doing so it will be maintaining the stand which it first adopted in 1922 and which has been frequently expressed by speakers on behalf of the Party not merely in this House but outside this House. When the Constitution of this State was being discussed in 1922 the Labour Party supported and voted for an amendment designed to eliminate the Seanad from the Constitution of the Irish Free State. It did so then with the declaration that the Labour Party did not believe in Double Chamber government."
That is a very definite and, one would think. a well-informed statement. But I have been looking through the reports of the meetings of the Dáil in the period referred to by Deputy Norton. I have been looking for that clear definition of the Labour Party in the records of the Dáil in 1922 and, so far, I have been entirely unsuccessful in locating it. If any representative of the Labour Party were here I would ask him to assist me in the discovery of such a statement. Certainly it is not to be found in the discussion on Article 12. That was the Article which constituted the two Houses of the Oireachtas and which would have been the appropriate place and time for such a definition of the Labour Party's views as Deputy Norton has made when he said that his Party were supporting and voting for the amendment designed to eliminate the Seanad from the Constitution of the Irish Free State. That was on the discussion on Article 12—the one which constituted and set up the two Houses of the Oireachtas.
There was one amendment and one amendment alone proposed and voted for with regard to Article 12 and supported by the Labour Party. That amendment aimed at eliminating from the Constitution not the Seanad but the King. It is true that when it came to the constitution of the Seanad, Article 29, Senator Johnson, who was then the leader of the Labour Party in the Dáil, made a mild disclaimer with regard to the wisdom of a Second Chamber and he said:
"I would prefer a Single Chamber to having a Second Chamber, but the Dáil has agreed that the Legislature shall comprise two Houses. Therefore, it is desirable that the Second Chamber should be the best possible."
However, I think the best commentary upon that would be the statement by Senator Johnson in this House dealing with Constitution (Amendment No. 19) Bill. He said:
"I was a member of the Provisional Parliament in 1922 which discussed the Constitution and, when the Article dealing with the constitution of the Second Chamber was reached, I expressed views to the effect that, on the whole, I was in favour of a Single Chamber. When that Parliament decided in favour of a Second Chamber, I made tentative proposals for a Chamber of an entirely different character from this, which, of course, were only put forward to ventilate the idea. I said that on the whole I was not in favour of a Single Chamber."
The word "not" there is evidently a misprint. Then he goes on:—
"I spent five years in the Dáil, doing my best to prevent the Executive of the time passing legislation without proper discussion. I then stated, and I still believe, that the almost inevitable tendency of an Executive, whether of States or of private institutions, is to take to itself added powers, and to impose them, if they can, without either elaboration or criticism upon people they are concerned with. I believe, therefore, that it is desirable there should be criticism and discussion of legislative proposals. I came to the conclusion, long before the five years were up, that my mild prejudice in favour of a Single Chamber was mistaken, and that it was desirable, even necessary for the protection of liberties, that in the Constitution that had been given to the people there should be some barrier against an Executive having, as that Executive had, an acquiescent majority in the Dáil, some barrier against that Executive passing through legislation without consideration—that is, consideration by Parliament."
I hope some apologist for the Government and the Labour Party will try to reconcile that statement of Senator Johnson with the statement made by Deputy Norton on the 18th April in the Dáil. To my mind it is impossible to do so. There is no Party, and no section of the community which should be more adamant in its opposition to this Bill than that section which Deputy Norton claims to represent. We are standing for the rights of institutions which mean much to every phase of human life in this State. The Labour Party by the declaration of their leader in the Dáil are deserting that stand they should take for these rights and liberties. I certainly believe, with the Chairman of this House, that this attempt to subvert this institution will fail.
There is an old saying that we rise on our dead selves to better things. The President has risen on his dead self to a position of power and authority in this State and he hopes now to rise on the dead Seanad to an even higher position of undisputed authority—to a dictatorship or something equivalent to a dictatorship. He reminds me of the saying that there is no one such a good gamekeeper as a poacher who has seen the error of his ways, but there is this difference, that the President is a poacher masquerading as a gamekeeper whose real purpose is to try to make easy the objectives of those who are still avowedly in the poaching game.
We stand here not for personal considerations in opposition to these wild adventures of the President and we stand here demanding that the Constitution of this State, which was secured by great sacrifice, by heroic effort and by great minds and which enshrined the principles and rights of the citizens of this State, shall be preserved and shall remain untampered with; that these wild adventures, to justify the past of a man who has proved himself an unwise political leader, shall cease; and that the people shall be allowed to proceed with their duties and their avocations as citizens under the protection of this Constitution, of which this Seanad, I hope, will stand as the buttress when the division takes place.
It was stated in the debate yesterday that this question has been clouded by misrepresentation. I, at least, in supporting this Bill, will not attempt to indulge in any misrepresentation. In his rather prolonged speech, Senator Milroy did not say a single word as to the proper functions of a Second Chamber or how this Second Chamber should carry out those functions. Other speakers at different times here, and Senator Douglas in particular, have outlined the functions of Second Chambers—the delaying of ill-considered and hasty legislation and revision and amendment of legislation. Let us see how that has been carried out by this House. Senator Milroy said in his speech, and repeated it later, that every vestige of democratic right could be swept away within half an hour——
The Senator is perfectly correct. In six hours, if this Bill were passed. In the Dáil, there were gloomy and dire forebodings as to what might happen to the rights and privileges of the people in six hours if this Bill were passed. Let me give a little record of the proceedings of this House, strangely enough in slightly less time than six hours—to be accurate five and three-quarter hours— in respect of a Bill which this House enacted and which absolutely abrogated every section, tittle and comma of the Constitution, inasmuch as one of its provisions was that if any section of the Constitution ran counter to anything in that Bill, the Constitution was waived and the Act had priority. I refer to Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act, 1931. Before that Bill was introduced in the Dáil, a time motion was handed in by Senator Wilson— and let Senators direct their minds closely to this—of which these were the details—and if Senator Milroy will copy it down, he will find that it works out at five and three-quarter hours:
(1) That the Second Stage be taken at 4.15 and be concluded at 6.15 on Friday, 16th October, 1931.
(2) That the sitting be then suspended until 8 p.m.
(3) That at 8 o'clock the Committee Stage be taken and concluded at 9.45.
(4) That the House then adjourn until 11 a.m. on 17th October.
(5) That the Report Stage be taken at 11 a.m. and concluded at noon.
(6) That the Fifth Stage be taken at 12 noon and concluded at 1 p.m. on the same day.
and then, lest any further discussion might take place:
(7) That immediately on its conclusion, the Seanad adjourn sine die.
That represents five and three-quarter hours to get a measure through this House, which abrogated, should necessity arise, every provision in the Constitution and we had the extraordinary fact that no copy of the Bill was in the hands of a single member of the House. We had an assurance from the Chair that a certified copy was lodged with the Clerk at 1.45 that day.
It is just as well to throw our minds back to what happened previous to the introduction of that Bill. The Dáil adjourned that year on 17th July and met on 14th October. It adjourned in July and stood adjourned for three months, resuming on 14th October. A Protection of Juries Act had been enacted which was to run for two years. The two years had expired somewhere about June, 1931, and Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney, then Minister for Justice, brought in a Bill re-enacting that Juries Act. On the Second Reading of that Bill he said:
"I might also point out that so completely has the measure stopped the intimidation or circularisation of jurymen that we have never found it necessary to put in force the powers conferred by Section 8 of the Principal Act—that is, the postponement of a trial where a juryman had been intimidated."
Further, he went on to say:
"I say that the Act has, in fact, worked and that intimidation of juries has been reduced to a negligible point."
That is in June, 1931. The reference is Vol. 14, cols. 1158 and 1164, of the Seanad Official Reports. A month afterwards, the Dáil adjourned and did not resume for three months and this Bill, which set up a Military Tribunal with unlimited powers — Senator Douglas described the measure as giving the tribunal carte blanche— was passed by this House in five and three-quarter hours without amendment of any sort, kind or description. I described it then, and I describe it now, as an election dodge. It was important to get it through to synchronise with the Bishops' Pastoral which was to be read in the churches the following Sunday. I suppose the idea was that the people would think that the Government were only seconding the efforts of the Church. That is how the Seanad carried out with judicial impartiality the work of delay and revision with regard to a Bill of that importance.
What has been the record of the Seanad since? If anything was clear as an issue at the general election in February, 1932, it was the removal of the Oath as a condition precedent to taking a seat either in the Dáil or the Seanad. When that Bill came before this House it was defeated. The Army Bill of this year was defeated. The Prohibition of Uniforms Bill has been defeated. But the Bill which gave the Military Tribunal power to inflict the death penalty, or any other penalty which it cared to impose, was passed. There was no appeal from the Military Tribunal. Indeed, if the Military Tribunal deem it fit, they need not allow an accused person the benefit of professional advice. The utmost penalty that could be inflicted under the Prohibition of Uniforms Bill was six months' imprisonment, or a fine, or both. That Bill was defeated, notwithstanding the fact that General O'Duffy, when he was Commissioner of the Gárdaí, complained to the Minister for Justice that a few Black Shirts or Fascists who happened to be in Dublin paraded on Armistice Day, and he suggested that they should not be permitted to continue that. With regard to the Blueshirts Bill, anyone who has seen the photograph of General O'Duffy speaking at a meeting during the week-end will see how near the blue shirt in some instances can be to a uniform. On another occasion, Senator Colonel Moore introduced a motion in this House dealing with the question of land annuities and a deliberate attempt was made to count out the House. Lord Glenavy was in the chair on the occasion and a quorum was not present. A Senator came in and pointed out that a quorum was not present. Fortunately the very presence of that Senator constituted a quorum and the motion was proceeded with. Whether you agree or do not agree with the retention of the land annuities, it was a very serious matter. The result was that even Cumann na nGaedheal promised that the land annuities would be reduced by 50 per cent. This House, however, tried to prevent a discussion on such an important matter as that. That was a very improper proceeding for a Second Chamber.
What is the policy that is preached up and down the country at the present time? We are told that if this Bill goes through it will tend to constitute a dictatorship. A few speeches were delivered during the week-end which are very interesting, and I shall quote extracts from the Cork Examiner. General O'Duffy said:
"I believe that before many years the Irish workers will not only accept but demand a change to the Corporate system—not perhaps in the form suggested by us, but in some modified form."
Senator Blythe was a little bit more explicit in a speech on Sunday last in County Cork. It is not given in detail here, but it states:—
"That he proceeded to outline the corporative programme of Fine Gael, and said the Dáil as at present constituted was not suitable for the modern work of a Government. They had the Dáil dealing with such expert matters as railways, whereas its members did not include a checker, guard, engine-driver, or director of the railways."
According to that argument, the Minister who introduced the Electricity Supply Bill should have been an engineer. That speech was reported a little more fully in the Irish Press as follows:—
"The Dáil was not suitable for modern government. That type of parliament was perfectly all right when governments did practically nothing but maintain an army, police force, courts and gaols. The tasks of government were now much more numerous and complicated. This miscellaneous assembly is not a suitable assembly for discussing the business of the nation. We propose to set up a substitute of continuous control...."
In other words, if ever they get in there will be continuous control with a dictator, and the will of the people is not to be considered. It would be well if we had honesty in these things. Let them come out openly and preach Fascism. If they get a majority of the electors of the country they will get the assent of every member on this side of the Seanad. With the record of this Seanad, to say that its abolition would be tantamount to a dictatorship is ridiculous. Whenever a political Party question cropped up this Seanad has been deliberately against the wishes and the will of the people. Can anybody tell me that the Oath was popular in the country? The Oath was the cause of the Civil War, with all the legacy of bloodshed and danger which has since eventuated from it.
I am not in favour of Single Chamber government. I think it is advisable that a Second Chamber should exist in this country. Senator Milroy read a quotation from what Senator Johnson was reported to have said as to the tendency of executives to secure power. I suppose it is almost inseparable from human nature that that tendency should exist. With the best wishes in the world, executives and governments, and sometimes, perhaps, presidents, pressed by followers not as enlightened as themselves, may introduce measures which a Second Chamber would do well either to delay or to revise. But this House has, time and again, as I said, whenever a question of Party politics came before it, gone against the wishes of the people. For that reason, I shall support the Bill and trust that in the future we may get some form of Second Chamber which will carry out the proper function of a revising and delaying Chamber, but which will not be anti-national in the sense in which the Seanad has been.
Yesterday when I came into the House I intended to speak and, if necessary, vote against this Bill, but the Senator who is now in the Chair, Senator Bennett, came into the House with a large quantity of literary baggage. Clearly he was not able to manage without manuscript and he prepared the way for reading his speech by a ruling from the Chair. Then he left the Chair and made a speech which I, for one, objected to very strongly. It seemed to me to be so preposterous that I hesitated in speaking because I did not wish it to be supposed by anybody that I could possibly agree with any such statement. I am sorry to say that this Senator has done more harm and has created more trouble between the two Houses than any other person in either House during the last six months. I am sorry to say that, but I cannot do otherwise than say it because I am quite sure it is a fact.
As regards the Bill, certain politicians on both sides of the Dáil have made a practice to throw ridicule and abuse on the Seanad, so that by dint of saying the same thing over and over again, the people of Ireland have accepted quite a wrong opinion of the Seanad. The members of that body, not being very dependent on the votes of the people, have never made the least defence and their case has gone by default. That is one of the great faults of democracy; the people are led away from the truth by words, not by deeds; by shouting, not by thinking. Fortunately, in the long run oratory exhausts itself. I remember such a time in 1914-1916 when the last thing any collection of people wanted was a speech. Not one of them ever wanted to hear a speech again.
I wonder if any of those fervid speech-makers in the Dáil who have been criticising the Seanad have turned their eyes to their own House and considered its faults. It is not so very long ago since half the members of the Dáil thought so badly of it that they would not even go into it. All the hatred was then expended on the Dáil, not the Seanad. They even said it was an illegal Assembly. Surely, if there is a recording angel above, the sentence will be against the Dáil, not against the Seanad.
Let us examine the situation a little. It was not the Seanad that made the Civil War. It was not the Seanad that made the partition of Ireland and said it was the greatest victory since Clontarf. It was not the Seanad that sent £5,000,000 a year to Britain. The Seanad is not responsible for the huge and increasing national debt and the over-taxation to meet it. These are a few, and only a few, of the misdeeds of a popularly-elected Chamber. These are a few of the wrong-doings which will be inscribed in the future history of Ireland. If the Seanad is in any way responsible, it is quite in a secondary way and because it followed a bad lead.
A very good case could be made for the abolition of the Dáil. Perhaps some such case may be made in future. The membership of the Seanad and its political tendencies are mostly the subject of attack. Surely the consciences of the members of the Dáil and their supporters ought to prick them in this attack. The first Seanad was chosen by the then President as regards 50 per cent. of its membership; the other 50 per cent. was elected by members who then sat in the Dáil. Where were the absentees? If they had been present, the membership of the Seanad would be totally different. The bad choice, if such it be, is entirely the fault of the Dáil which made the choice; but those who caused the bad choice are now using it for their own purpose.
The plea for abolishing the Seanad has been largely an appeal to democracy. I have been a democrat all my life, longer probably than any member of the Dáil; but experience showed me that democracy often has bad elements. Some of the most dreadful happenings have been caused by the unlimited licence of the people, so that men and women have suffered the brutality of kings and emperors rather than trust their lives and property to the guardianship of unlicensed democracy. Is there anyone who would prefer to live under the French terror in 1792 or the Russian Bolshevists of 1918 rather than under some form of ordered government, even though it might be illogical and undemocratic? Senators, no doubt, can call to their minds numerous instances of horrible cruelty in various countries and under every form of government without my reminding them.
I believe there is no such thing as good government. All governments are bad, more or less. To escape unlicensed democracy we have to put up with indifferent and illogical governments, choosing if we can the least bad. The mob said: "Crucify Him, crucify Him." I say that if the Seanad is not very good, its personality is as good and as suitable for the government of Ireland as the Dáil. I believe it would be better to put up with some difficulties rather than to pull it down. Revolution leads to counter revolution. The English people govern themselves, not other people, very well, and experience teaches them to go slowly in political changes.
Now, the poet, Milton, was, besides being a great poet, a republican and a democrat. He was a great writer on political matters and I will quote what he says about democracy:—
"For this is not the liberty which we can hope for, that no grievance should ever arise in the Commonwealth; that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty obtained that wise men look for."
Why then has this attack been suddenly launched on the Seanad? Only a few months ago, a Bill was passed by the Dáil limiting the powers of the Seanad to a three months' period for holding up Bills; that will come into operation in a few months. I can understand the irritation of the Government, suffering under an 18 months' stoppage, but can any reasonable person think that a three months' stoppage is a serious hindrance? On the contrary, Ministers have frequently admitted that Seanad amendments have improved the Bills. Will not the loss be greater than the gain? Evidently, this is a rushed Bill.
The President has often said that a Seanad, if in an improved form, might be accepted and he regretted not being able to devise such a one. I shall now apply myself to this matter. I have often stated that the first Seanad was much better than its successors. No one acquainted with the facts will deny this. It was due to several factors: one was that the Government of that day did not tie their supporters with any rigidity. Secondly, it was a nominated Seanad. These two combined made a very fair Second Chamber, if not a brilliant one. I am thrown back on this device. I believe that no person in the position of the head of the State would disgrace himself and lower his prestige by nominating unworthy persons to high office. His position would be different from that of members of a Party who, acting as a body, might choose their friends, trusting to personal anonymity. The nominative method is by no means new in the history of the world. I shall quote a notable example which lasted 100 years and has been admired by successive generations but I must ask Senators to regard it as a quotation:
"During the first century of our era, the Roman Empire was ruled successively and indifferently, or badly, by three Emperors—Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian. The last of these earned the title of tyrant on account of his high-handed treatment of the Roman Senate. After Domitian, came the Emperor Nerva, A.D. 98. He adopted the nomination method, appointing Trajan as his successor. In turn, Trajan appointed Hadrian. Then followed Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, each nominated during the life of his predecessor. This method of election proved so successful that the historian Gibbon wrote in his history that ‘during this period of 100 years the empire enjoyed tranquillity and good government.' He adds that ‘during the reigns of these Antonines the people under their rule enjoyed happiness and prosperity greater perhaps than the human race had experienced during any other period. When the system died out the Roman Empire began to decay.'"
Think what a Seanad might be in Ireland if the leaders of the three Parties in the Dáil nominated, in proportion to their numbers, the best men and women to be found in Ireland; and if representatives were added on the recommendation of certain industries, what a splendid and useful body it might be! What an ornament it would be to the country! Is there enough patriotism among leaders to carry out this plan? Is there enough patriotism in Ireland to call for this system? As one of the oldest members of the Oireachtas, I call upon the President to consider this form of a Seanad.
Before dealing with the subject matter of this Bill, I wish to record, on behalf of all of us who are associated in the Independent Group with Senator the Right Honourable Andrew Jameson, the appreciation which is felt by us of the protest with regard to the stupid class propaganda which has soiled so many of the utterances of the Government Party, which protest was so forcibly and adequately made during the course of yesterday's debate by Senator Westropp Bennett when speaking from the floor of the House as a member of the United Ireland Party. Although we have consistently ignored this type of slander, we have none the less regretted it as having a degrading influence on the political life of this country. It is, therefore, a matter of gratification to know that men like Senator Westropp Bennett and members of his Party recognise no distinction of class or creed and, like Charles Stewart Parnell, invite the help and co-operation of every Irishman. Hitherto, at all times, and in many places, I have maintained in conversation and otherwise the idea that the President, whatever else he was, was sincere. But the facts which Senator Westropp Bennett and Senator Douglas have but lately brought to the notice of the House must give pause even to the most ardent partisan.
It is with no conscious disrespect to the President personally or his office that I compare him, in his political career, to Lewis Carroll's famous queen in "Alice in Wonderland." Whenever that lady found anybody who displeased her she immediately shouted "Off with his head." The President has done much the same recently. First, there was the Governor-General, but he wriggled when he was on the block and he has saved enough of his vertebræ to maintain a truncated existence. Then followed the Commissioner of the Gárda. He got away very much like Shemus O'Brien and, so far as I can gather, he is uninjured and still at large. Then came the Blueshirts. In this case, it was "Off with all their heads." The Seanad thought there were too many of them and they held up the axe. Now, the President is inviting this House to commit hari-kari, as the Japanese do, with the alternative of a fate similar to that for the three gardeners in the Queen's Croquet Ground. All this has been done in the name of democratic government, but many people must see in this policy the gradual development of a Communistic dictatorship, what President Franklin Roosevelt describes as
"a driving regimentation founded on the plans of a perpetuating directorate which subordinate the making of laws and the processes of the courts to the orders of the Executive and manifests itself in the total elimination of certain classes and the abolition of private property."
The history of constitutional change in this country since 1921 has been an unfortunate one. There have, in 13 years, been 23 amendments. Some of them have been made with a view to attaining greater independence and greater freedom. To my mind, all of these have been no more than paper transactions for the reason that independence and freedom are only relative terms and no one people in the world can be, in fact, independent of the remainder. Others have been merely tinkering with a kettle which was really good enough, and much blame attaches to the late Administration for impulsive action in this direction though I do give credit to them for a desire to create improvements rather than to destroy.
We have had two groups of men, gifted with much mental ability, controlling the destinies of this State since it was set up in 1922. Neither has realised that a governing tradition must, of necessity, be wanting in a new State; that it can only be attained by the process of time. It were better, therefore, to hasten slowly. Neither stopped to consider the wisdom, say, of the American people who, with a political complex vastly more difficult than others, in 147 years have only made 19 amendments to the Constitution they established. One of these they have since repealed. Another was the introduction of woman suffrage which, I think, anybody would agree with. Again, neither of these groups of men took account of France, which has since 1875 preserved a Constitution which, in many ways, has been found deficient and where the Senate has infinitely more power than we have in this State. Bicameral government had its origin in the Mother of Parliaments. The British form of Constitution, with certain variations, has been adopted in most democratic countries. There is every reason, if those countries have seen fit to retain the system, why a young country like ours—we may be old in age, but we are young and inexperienced in the science of government—should not discard it too hastily.
In his various remarks in connection with the Bill before us, the President despaired of finding an adequate substitute for the present Seanad. I ask simply what Assembly in the world which depends on the opinions of human nature can possibly be satisfactory in every possible way? In the making of a nation there should be big ideas, and I ask the President to take the broad view, the view of Cecil Rhodes, whose foible was "size," and who desired that "they should all come, Dutch and English, East and West, North and South, and get to know and like each other." Not only Rhodes, but big men like Smuts, Botha and Hertzog, all of whom were at one with him in his idea, have realised in the building of South Africa the necessity for construction rather than destruction; for compromise and co-operation, and so have brought their country through difficult times. They have brought it to what I shall call a reality of sovereign status in the very short space of 32 years. Is this measure calculated, I ask, to bring all together—"North and South, Briton and Celt"—and to break down the barriers which now exist, or is it a deliberate step in the "Little Ireland" policy which can but intensify the distrust and suspicion among those who should be our friends?
The implications which this Bill contains have already been adequately developed by other members of the House. I do not propose to do more than to refute the statement that the Seanad is a means by which the will of the people can be set at naught The existence of the Seanad with its present powers—very much smaller powers than Second Chambers have in some other countries—to delay hasty legislation in no way prevents a Government from developing its policy. In all his past propaganda the President and his Party have shown through their ignorance of history—History with a big H—that they have relied on a similar want of knowledge on the part of a peasant population in this country to put this measure through. But there is a limit to all things, and knowing as I do the people of my county who in the last two elections were so much in favour of the present Government, I can assure the President that the country is very definitely alarmed by the possibilities of this Bill. I do not think that they are as yet fully aware of what can be done under it and how serious the situation is, but the fact is that there is this feeling abroad. It should give the President and those about him reason to realise that the dementia of the last two elections is nearly over, and that there is a turn of the tide which it would be well for him to take account of.
I do not intend to occupy the time of the House for more than a few minutes. I had intended to deal at some length with two portions of the case which the President made in the Dáil. One was his reference to authorities, beginning with the Abbé Sieyés and ending with John Stuart Mill. The other was his statement with reference to the accidental origin of Second Chambers. I will take first his amazing statement with reference to existing Second Chambers in European countries. He said:—
"There are checks by these Second Chambers, but they are always checks in favour of vested interests and privilege and they are checks against the march of the people to their rights."
You, Sir, and Senator Douglas have dealt with these speeches of the President and therefore you have relieved me of the task of making further reference to them on that point. As to the President's authorities, I shall only say that Sieyés and Condorcet are discredited not only by all modern authorities—not only by their own personal history—but by the modern history of their own country. I shall listen with respectful interest to the answers, which I hope the President will be here to give, to the following questions:—
"(1) Does he still say that John Stuart Mill is an authority for a Single Chamber?
(2) Excluding the House of Lords, can he name even one of the 30 or 31 existing European bicameral countries in which the Second Chamber is a check in favour of vested interests and privileges, and against the march of the people to their rights?"
If the President cannot give a satisfactory answer to these questions, I can only say that he did not treat the other House fairly when he made the statements to which I have referred.
Listening as I have, Sir, to the debate, I have become painfully conscious of the futility of argument with reference to this Bill. As a member of the House should have a well considered reason, if he intends to vote against this Bill, I should like to state very shortly my reasons for doing so. In the first place, if this Bill becomes law, it will deprive the country of the power of revision which is exercised by this House. The ordinary citizen does not, in my opinion, appreciate the value of this power. There are relatively very few Bills in the history of this House for the last ten or 12 years that have not been amended and improved in this House. That Sir, is not possible to the same extent in the Dáil. We have advantages here which they have not in the Dáil. I can speak for more than ten years of happy experience in this House. I have taken my share of the work of revision in this House, and I can truthfully say the following: There is an atmosphere in this House, which is necessarily entirely different from the atmosphere in the Dáil. There is much less Party feeling than in the Dáil. There is none, or very little, of the bitterness that comes necessarily from the clash of Party politics. There is more detachment here. There is more expert knowledge here, and there is a longer and larger experience of affairs. I mean no reflection whatever on the Dáil. What we have here that they have not got is largely the result of age.
We heard yesterday the record of this House in the matter of the revision of legislation, and I think it is a record of which we might very fairly be proud. When the Seanad is gone, Sir, the revision of legislation will be done by the courts and it will be a more unpleasant and a somewhat humiliating process. In the next place, if this Bill becomes law, there will be an irreparable loss to the country because of the loss of the power of delay. The power to delay legislation is useful in all countries. It is absolutely necessary in this State. As Senator Bagwell stated yesterday, there is no country where the people are less politically educated. It is entirely their misfortune, and not in any way their fault. It is entirely due to our unhappy political history. For generations in this country the only questions in which the people were really interested were Home Rule and the land. They wanted self-government, and they wanted security, by the purchase of their land. In time they got both and now, Sir, they are politically at sea. For this reason, the power of delay is absolutely necessary in this State of ours. It is not a veto. It is only a delay. The will of the people—if it be the will of the people—will prevail in the end. The delay even at its longest, is a short price to pay for the time to think. A young man in a hurry, Sir, may do foolish things; a young nation in a hurry is quite certain to do them, and some of us, old men, may live to see it here. It is this young country, in this stage of political childhood, that is to be deprived of our power of delay.
I wish to refer very shortly to two very grave dangers which will follow the abolition of this House. One is the danger of leaving the currency and banking at the mercy of a Single Chamber. I hold no brief for the Currency Commission or for bankers. I have no interest either as a shareholder or otherwise, in any bank except in the bank which, from time to time, kindly gives me a somewhat moderate overdraft. I am not speaking on behalf of the bankers or of the Currency Commission. I am speaking on behalf of the people. But I spent several years in the study of political economy and banking. I practised for years banking law, and I spent years in teaching what I knew of banking and political economy to others, and I know, and I am appalled at the extremity of this State. A sound currency is the very life blood of a country's credit in the world; a sound banking system is the basis of its prosperity. The United States of America, as we see it now, is an awful example of unsound banking and unsettled currency. What can a young Government in this young country know of either of these delicate subjects? Where might we find ourselves when there is only a Single Chamber to protect us? Think of the harm that could be done unless people get time to think.
A second grave danger, to which I wish to refer, is the loss of the independence of the judges. Since the Act of Settlement, which was passed in the year 1700, judges in this country are only removable by Address from both Houses. I understand that under an amendment they will be removable under this Bill, by not less than four-sevenths of the Dáil, but, Sir, that is no protection, no certain protection— and protection should be certain. There may come a time when there will be a Government majority of four-sevenths in the Dáil. There may be a time when the Dáil as a Single Chamber will alter the vulgar fraction leaving the judges with the protection of a bare majority. The independence of the judges should not be protected by a fraction. We all know what it means. It is the only protection of the individual against the State. It is the only protection of the poor and the weak against the strong.
Any attack on the independence of the judges is an attack on liberty. It is curious, Sir, that the best tribute to the value of the independence of the judges that I know of comes from a king. In the year 1760, immediately after his accession, George III in a recommendation from the throne to Parliament, declared as follows:—
"That he looked upon the independence and uprightness of the judges as essential to the impartial administration of justice, as one of the best securities of the rights and liberties of his subjects and as most conducive to the honour of the Crown."
In the United States of America the tenure of the ordinary State judges is not a satisfactory one; but when it comes to the judges of the Supreme Court—the court which decides all constitutional questions in the United States and which stands between the people and the State—they are only removable by resolution of the two Houses and on impeachment. If you cease to have an independent bench, you cease to have an independent bar and you degrade the administration of justice. Against these evils the country should be protected by more than this fraction of a Single House. For these reasons I oppose this Bill.
"Have you anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced upon you?" That seems to me to be the question before the House. That seems to me to be the question facing every Senator here to-day, especially Senators in the Opposition Benches. Having listened to the various speeches made in opposition to this Bill, I must say that, in my estimation, not one reasonable argument has been put up for the continued existence of this establishment, as at present constituted.
Yesterday a good many people listened patiently to the swan song of Senator Colonel Westropp Bennett, and during his swan song, as it might well be called, one might have expected that he, at least, would have put up some little defence for the continued existence of the Seanad, as at present constituted, but, instead of anything in the shape of reasonable argument, we were treated by Senator Westropp Bennett to nothing more or less than a personal attack on the President of the State, a personal attack in which he descended to the very lowest level to which it was possible for him to descend. I say further that while that attack and while those false statements —misrepresentations, if you like to call them so—may be justified by other members of the United Ireland Party, there is no excuse whatever for Senator Westropp Bennett, because he cannot convince anybody knowing the facts that he was speaking out of the fullness of his ignorance when he referred to the President in such terms.
I refer to a statement to the effect, as near as I can repeat the words, that "what is about to occur here is typical of what always occurs when an inferior individual gets into a position of authority." I am open to correction, but if I am right, and I think I am, there is no excuse whatever for that statement from Senator Westropp Bennett. Is it not a fact that Senator Westropp Bennet was brought up in the immediate neighbourhood which is proud at this moment of having brought up the President of this State? Is it not a fact that Senator Westropp Bennett is fully aware of the circumstances surrounding all the boyhood and the upbringing of the President? Is it because Senator Westropp Bennett saw, perhaps, at many times, the man who now occupies the honoured position of President of this State, drive an ass and cart to the creamery, that he now refers to him as an inferior individual? Is it because the Nationalist stock, from which the President has come in that locality, were possibly opposed to the political ideas of the predecessors of Senator Westropp Bennett, or is it merely because he wishes to hurl back one more insult at the plain people of this country before he departs to the political Limbo prepared for all members of that organisation at present known as the United Ireland Party? Is it for that purpose he takes it on himself to insult, through the medium of the President, the overwhelming majority of the people of the Twenty-Six Counties who, regardless of all the poisonous propaganda, of all the lies and misrepresentations that have been hurled at him here in this House and from every United Ireland Party and Cumann na nGaedheal platform in the country, selected him to be their leader? Is it because of that fact that Senator Westropp Bennett wants to get back at the people before his departure? If that is the reason, then he should have explained that before he let it go out to the Press of the world as his statement when he descended from the throne and took his place among the ordinary Senators of this House.
Senator Westropp Bennett went further to suggest that if this Bill should become law various disasters would occur. Amongst the various things which he mentioned, he said, with apparently conviction behind him, that the Church—or was it religion?— would be endangered in this country. If Senator Bennett had said that he really believed that, with the passing of this Bill, religion in this country would really be endangered, perhaps he might be excused, but when he comes along to define one particular religion and to suggest that the Catholic religion would thereby be endangered, all I can say is that Senator Westropp Bennett is certainly taking on his shoulders something which he will not successfully carry, at least before the plain people of this country. He, and everybody else, knows very well that if at any time the Catholic Church needed defenders in this country, it would not go for these defenders to the ranks of the people whom Senator Westropp Bennett now takes it on himself to represent in speaking against this measure. It would go to the ranks of the people of this country to do it where it went heretofore; it would go to the plain people of Ireland and not to the people who are now suggested as defenders of the Catholic religion in this country by Senator Westropp Bennett. We have had similar remarks made by other speakers but I have not entirely covered the ground when dealing with the case put forward by Senator Westropp Bennett. I would like to know by what authority Senator Westropp Bennett, or any Senators on the Opposition side, set themselves up as the defenders of religion against the majority of the people in this country.
I would like to ask Senator Westropp Bennett by what criterion is the President of this State to be judged as to whether he is the inferior of superior of Senator Westropp Bennett, or any other highbrow Senator in the Opposition. I do not propose to go into details, or to look up the records of the members of the Opposition—their educational qualifications or their banking accounts. But I do say if there is anything which goes to set up one individual as superior to another, it is his educational qualifications and not his banking account. Possibly if the President had paid more attention to his banking account, during all those years, as have many of the men who now go out to criticise him, he would, in all probability, rank amongst the people who are now styled by Senator Westropp Bennett as the superior class in this country.
The suggestion that this Assembly is representative of the people of this country is, to say the least of it, a fairy tale. Has not this Assembly on every possible occasion thwarted the will of the people? Have we not in the past couple of years insulted the people on numerous occasions? Have we not thrown out various measures definitely called for by the electors at two successive elections?
The Blueshirts Bill——
I will deal with the Blueshirts Bill later on. Blue shirts are being used as scarecrows in my part of the country at present. Senator Comyn suggested giving one to Senator Miss Browne so that she should have a second one to wear while the other was at the laundry; she will get plenty of them in South Tipperary. The question of the Oath Bill was dealt with by Senator Dowdall. If there was no other justification for my statement as to the attitude of the Seanad in respect to the will of the people, their attitude to the Oath Bill alone would be sufficient. So also the attitude of the Seanad in connection with the Extension of Franchise Bill is a further justification. The attitude of the Seanad in respect to the Land Bill is another justification, and its attitude in connection with the Blueshirts Bill is a crowning proof that this Assembly not does, by any stretch of the imagination, represent the will of the majority of the people of this country.
We have had the argument put up that the Seanad was responsible for doing some wonderful things; for putting on the brake when the Fianna Fáil Government were inclined to go too fast. But, if at any time the Seanad could claim to have such a record when its attitude since the Fianna Fáil Party came into power is taken into account, no such claim as that made by some speakers in opposition to this Bill could be sustained. The Seanad might at some period, before I came into this House, if it had been abolished, have gone down to history as a conservative body acting as a sort of brake, but one thing is certain that as a result of its attitude in the past two years it will go down to history with a record of recklessness because of the fact that, by fair means or foul, it tried to put the democratic government of Fianna Fáil, especially during the last six months, out of office, and to replace it by nothing else than a government of Blueshirts and blunderbusses. Surely the people who suggest that if the members of this Assembly went to the country they would be elected by popular vote are not serious? Surely the people who suggest that if the question were put to the people as to whether or not the Seanad, as at present constituted, should be abolished, and suggest that the people would vote in favour of its continuation, in its present shape, are not serious? It must be obvious to every member of the Seanad that the day is gone, in this country, when the people are going to tolerate any minority preventing the carrying on of democratic government in this State.
We have here, of course, members claiming to represent the farmers—the independent members on the Opposition Benches, mar dh'eadh! They will stand up, by the way, to represent the farmers whenever they think they can make use of that excuse to obstruct the Government. I should like to ask those gentlemen what would be their attitude if such a thing should happen —and, mind you, it looks likely to happen at the present time—as that the Farmers' Party should "come up for the third time"? Would they dissociate themselves from the superior elements with which they are now united? I say, definitely, that they would not. This story of the independence of certain members is getting a bit old, and the records of this House will go to show that on every occasion when any important measure was being discussed, on every important division in this House, they voted, as was the old saying, "agin the Government."
I think that this question of nonpolitical members was pretty well decided by the attitude of Senator Westropp Bennett in his speech last night.
I should like to say, Senator, that you are misrepresenting Senator Westropp Bennett grossly. I have never been a member of any of the political Parties in this country— never. You referred also to what I said about the President and it was a gross misrepresentation on your part. You were referring, evidently, to what I said about inferiority and statesmanship, but to think that I referred for a moment to the head of the State as inferior is beyond the imagination of any member of the Seanad.
I suggest, with all respect, that the Cathaoirleach is a member of the Seanad and took part in the debate as a member of the Seanad and, as such, in my opinion, he should be liable to criticism. In my opinion, his speech was a partisan speech.
What Senator Quirke said was a misrepresentation of what I had said, and I want to correct it.
I should be very sorry to misrepresent any member of this Assembly, but I do say that there was no misrepresentation as far as I was concerned—no misrepresentation and no misunderstanding.
You said that I was a member of a political Party. I am not.
So did Senator The McGillycuddy, and it was not denied.
Senator The McGillycuddy may say what he likes. I am stating the facts.
If I said that Senator Westropp Bennett was a member of the United Ireland Party and he denies it, I accept his explanation, but to say that he did not associate himself definitely with the Party known as the United Ireland Party in this House on yesterday's debate is really absurd. However, I accept his explanation on the matter. I do say this, however, that if Senator Westropp Bennett did not mean to insult the President by his reference to inferiority, then, I say, he himself was the only one who could possibly have understood it in that way. The people who will read that speech within the next few days will not go to the trouble of finding out what Senator Westropp Bennett now alleges he intended to infer. They will read there the plain words in black and white which, to my mind, constitute the greatest insult ever offered to the President, notwithstanding the various insults which have been hurled at him here in this House and, as I said before, at every crossroads in the country.
The question has been asked—and people here seem anxious to know— why the President is not here to-day. It has been suggested that it is an insult to the Seanad that he has not turned up to take down the notes and to answer the various questions asked by such gentlemen as Senators Milroy and MacLoughlin and the rest of the "superior" group in this House. I say, however, that it is not quite so easy to insult some of those gentlemen as they would now have us to understand, and that the President did exactly the right thing in staying away from this House and not sit down here taking insult after insult from the members of this House during this debate. I am quite sure that the President will be here to answer any sane questions, if such have been put by the members of the Opposition, but I fail to see any reason why he should stand here to be a cockshot for the vulgarity of the various Senators who had their attack ready to launch on him when he sat here to listen to this Bill being debated. He probably has something more useful to do.
It has been proved, and practically accepted, that the Seanad has on various occasions embarrassed the Government and, on various occasions. held up legislation which was of the utmost importance to this State. Is there any indication that, if this Seanad were to continue, there would be any reversal of that attitude? I say that there is none. Why, then, have an election? Why elect a Government? Why should the people be asked to elect a Government if that Government is not going to be allowed to rule —if that Government is to be held up at every twist and turn by the representatives of the minority in the country who happen to be in the majority in this House? I say that it is a ridiculous position for any Government to be in—a position where the Government were, so to speak, treading on thin ice and where the people electing the Government were wondering if the Government would be able to get past the Seanad with the various measures demanded by the people of the country.
That situation could not continue, and as somebody suggested here—I do not know whether he was serious or not, probably he was—it might be a good idea to abolish the Dáil. But one thing is evident in any case that it was a matter of either the Dáil being abolished or the Seanad being abolished. If the Government were to allow the Seanad to carry on its campaign of obstruction then, I say, the only decent thing for the Government to do under such conditions would be to clear out of office, and, God forbid such a thing should ever happen, let the Seanad run the country. The argument that the Seanad has served a useful purpose can hardly be borne out.
We have had a lecture here as to the number of amendments put up by the Opposition and accepted by the Dáil, and the number of amendments handed in by members of the Opposition as against the number handed in by the representatives of the Government, and so forth. But what do these figures in reality indicate? Is it not a direct proof that the Opposition in the Dáil are incapable of managing the Party affairs in that House? Is it not an indication of the hopelessness of the United Ireland Party opposition in that House? The fact that they stood there and debated the various measures and that it never dawned on them that "such an amendment" may be introduced until the Bill comes to this House, is certainly an indication not as to the usefulness of the Seanad but as to the uselessness of the Opposition in the Dáil at the present time.
A deliberate attempt is being made to create the impression that the United Ireland Party as an organisation is against this Bill. Again, I say that that statement will not hold water. The official United Ireland Party may, perhaps, be unanimous on this one matter. They may, perhaps, be in favour of the retention of the Seanad as at present constituted, but to say that the followers of the United Ireland Party through the country are of the same opinion is certainly a deliberate falsehood. We know that such is not the case. We know that the only people who are really against this measure are the numerous leaders of the United Ireland Party. We know the reason they are not in favour of this measure and that they support this opposition. That reason is because if they could possibly retain this House as at present constituted they would successfully prove the hopelessness of parliamentary government and prepare the people for a dictatorship under, possibly, Deputy Belton.
But that chance has already gone by the board. The people sarcastically referred to as "the peasantry" by the various members of this House are already marching towards their rights. They are, day by day, getting into the control of their own affairs, and it will never come again, after this Bill becomes law, that any section representing the minority in this country, whether it be an ex-Unionist minority, a Unionist minority, or any other kind of minority, will have the audacity to stand up here and lecture the people as to what is good for them or as to what is not good for them. The people, regardless of the fact that they have been accused of ignorance, political ignorance and every kind of ignorance, I suppose, are much wiser than some of those gentlemen think.
Senator Bagwell and men like him have no right to make such statements. Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, I think, made similar statements. I am open to correction, as far as Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks is concerned, because, notwithstanding the fact that I have a fairly good knowledge of every county in Ireland, I have not yet succeeded in getting a proper grip of that ultra-Kerry accent of Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks. But I say this, that the men who accuse the majority of the people of this country of ignorance, political ignorance or any other kind of ignorance, are talking simply and solely out of the fullness of their own ignorance. We heard them talking here. Senator Westropp-Bennett said:—
"I am talking as an Irishman to Irishmen of Irishmen."
I do not say that many of those people were not born in this country, that they could not legally claim the title of "Irishmen," but I do say that the only excuse that could possibly be put up for the insults hurled here during this debate at the "peasantry," as they called them, is that these people do not understand the people of this country. They do not understand the mentality of the people of this country, because they do not, properly speaking, belong in this country. They have not mixed with the people of this country; they have not been brought up with the people of this country. They see everything from inside the walls of that little British colony set up here in days gone by, and no matter how we try to educate them, no matter how we try to uplift them, we have never succeeded in getting the majority of those gentlemen outside the walls of that little British colony to see things as the ordinary individual, the ordinary Irishman who was brought up either in an agricultural community, or in the city, or anywhere else ouside that little colony, views things. No; they always see things from the Englishman's point of view, but the peculiar thing about it is that while some of these gentlemen think they are possessed of a magnificent superiority complex, what is really the matter with them is that they are possessed of an inferiority complex as in the case of Senator Westropp Bennett when he comes along as the self-styled defender of the Catholic religion. Certain people remarked to me that he must have a terrible opinion of himself, but what I say is that he must have a very poor opinion of himself if he thinks that because within one or two generations some of his ancestors came over to the Catholic religion, he, on that account, is bound to keep apologising to those people for the rest of his life.
Leave that subject.
I will decide myself what I will talk about.
Go and say it at some cross-roads.
I very seldom consult people——
Leave the subject now.
The Senator must be allowed to make his speech. He is making a very excellent speech and must be allowed to continue.
——and if I did ask advice I am sure that I would hardly get it good from some of those people. As I was saying, perhaps he thinks he should keep on apologising but that would not be my attitude. I would suggest that for any man who finds himself in that position the best attitude really is to stand on his own two feet and not to take up the attitude of apologising for what somebody did 100 or 200 years ago. You will find, as I have found, that you will command far more respect among the ranks of those people who take it on themselves to applaud such statements when they happen to suit their political programme at the present time than by the other method. I do not propose to deal with the various statements and the various inaccuracies made by such able legal minds as that of Senator Milroy. Neither do I propose to deal with the mud shovelled out by Senator MacLoughlin. I would merely suggest to the people who have appealed to us time and again to uphold the dignity of this Assembly to do so themselves on this occasion, to accept the verdict of the people and await patiently the fall of the guillotine on the outstretched neck of the Seanad.
I think I am only voicing the opinions of the vast majority of this Assembly when I dissociate myself from everything Senator Quirke has said.
I never said that I represented the majority of this Seanad.
Many of us listened to you and for my part I feel that it has added to the distinction of membership of this Assembly that the Cathaoirleach was able to make such an able and erudite defence of this Chamber. I think it is Lord Bacon who said in his essays:
"What is truth said the jesting Pilate?"
and as we all know Pilate did not wait for an answer. The President has, over and over again, said that he wants to get an argument in favour of retaining the Seanad. I was hoping that you, Sir, had given him that argument and, when I did not see him here to-day I came to the conclusion that he was turning the situation over in his mind and that probably he would come and tell us that, on the whole, there was an argument for the retention of the Seanad and that he was prepared to withdraw this measure. However, we have it from Senator Quirke now that the reason he is not present is that there were a few hard things said of him here.
It is impossible that any hard things could be said of him here.
You cannot, I think, suggest for a moment that you do not say pretty hard things yourself about other Senators.
If anybody looks for it or attacks me personally.
Is it not a little like the manner in which Oliver Cromwell would deal with the situation? He told them long ago to take away the bauble and disperse. I suppose our bauble is hardly worth carrying away although you, Sir, think a good deal of it and that it will be left to us, but at all events I think it is rather disrespectful that the head of the State, having asked for reasons why the Seanad should be maintained, does not come here to hear those reasons.
On a point of order, I think the President has been misrepresented. The President sat here during the speech of the Cathaoirleach and listened most attentively to that speech which my friend Senator Crosbie admits was the best speech that has been made against the Bill up to the present.
I go further and say that you made a complete case for us and I quite agree with Senator Comyn that no further speech here could really have added very much to what he has said.
And the President was present during the delivery of that speech and attended to every word that was said.
The President in his address to us here claimed that in the manifestoes issued at the last and previous elections he stated that the Seanad was going to be ended. I have the manifestoes here and, as far as I can find, there is not a single allusion. Let me read out just the first statement in that manifesto:—
"The first plank in their platform was to remove the Article in the Constitution which made the signing of an Oath of Allegiance imperative."
It goes on to say:
"This Article is not required by the Treaty. It stands in the way of national unity and of willing obedience to the law and government by coercion is necessary."
My friend Senator Dowdall has explained to the House what a terrible Coercion Act was passed here by the previous Government. We were assured by the President that once that Oath was eliminated from the Statute Book all would be peaceful and quiet in Ireland. He has had to revive that Coercion Act. What made him revive it? Was it any action on the part of the present Opposition that caused it? Was it not brought about by the action of those very people who, he assured us over and over again, would be loyal and peaceful subjects of the Free State if the Oath was eliminated from the Statute Book?
There were further things entailed by eliminating the Oath. The land annuities were retained in the country and we were promised that, because of that, the position of the farmers would be far and away superior to what it ever had been in the history of the country. The annuities have been retained. As Senator Bagwell pointed out yesterday—I can give the figures to anyone who wants them—the price of a nine months' old calf in the Free State is 30s., including the bounty. That same calf, if you could smuggle it across the Border, is worth £5 5s. In the same way, to come to the more expensive cattle, a beast worth £7 10s. in the Twenty-Six Counties is worth £13 10s. in the Northern Counties. What is the result of that? Absolute poverty for the farming community. Instead of farmers being free from the payment of rates, the sheriff is being brought in to collect them. The annuities remain unpaid and seizures are being made day after day to realise the amount that is owing.
It brings my mind back to the 'eighties. In those days the prices of stock fell very low. The result was that there was a very big agitation against paying rent. The landlords were very indignant. They claimed, as Senator Quirke does to-day, that the people had the money, but that in reality they had not the will to pay. Seizures proceeded all over the country. What followed then? The "crowbar brigade." Will Senator Quirke tell me that when you have taken the stock off a man's farm, when you have given him no chance of making a livelihood out of his land, he will be left on that land? The Government may leave him on the land but, if any other creditor comes along, do you think he will not invoke the "crowbar brigade?" Will he not be evicted from his holding? I do not want to go into the situation any deeper than I have done up to the present. I say, however, that the real outstanding blight which is over this country is the economic war, which Senator Quirke is so fond of joking about. While that goes on, the farming community must be in a very precarious way. Might I point out the effect it has had on the industrial position?
I would point out the effect on the Seanad if I were you.
The effect of the measures that the Seanad attempted to hold up and that were passed in spite of the Seanad. Am I not entitled to point out the immediate effect on our community?
Take the industrial position. During the last year Customs realised £9,689,000. That means that through the Customs was raised nearly half of the money, amounting to £20,775,000, which the Supply Services cost in 1930-31. The only justification in my opinion for that would be to show that an enormous impetus had been given to trade, that unemployment had virtually ceased, because of this extraordinary sum raised through Customs or through tariffs. The result, however, is this: that there is more unemployment in the country to-day than there ever was—and that in spite of the fact that we have relief works undertaken on a scale that none of us ever can remember before—and that within a few years home assistance has gone up by 50 per cent. In 1932 it amounted to £93,434; in this year it has amounted to £141,434.
There is also this to be borne in mind, that all the machinery required for our industries comes into the country free, and that all the raw material required for our industries also comes in free, and that raw material amounts to more than half of what the home manufactured article realises here. Without going into the high constitutional question at all, I say that this House has done its best to prevent legislation being enacted which has brought about tremendous distress and which offers very little hope to the whole community.
Before I come to what I intended to say, I should like to sympathise with the House, and particularly with the Fianna Fáil Party, on the speech made by Senator Quirke. It is proof, a Chathaoirligh, if proof were needed, that your speech yesterday hit home when the Fianna Fáil Party could not put up anybody better than Senator Quirke to reply to it. The President is absent, the Minister for Lands is absent, and we have had to listen to Senator Quirke's mud-slinging. He made a very serious charge against you, a Chathaoirligh; he said that some of your ancestors were converts—a terrible crime! I do not know whether it is true or not, but if it is true, it is a terrible crime surely. Does Senator Quirke, I wonder, remember 1916? He is a convert to the Irish Ireland movement and he comes here to throw dirt at us to-day. He wants to know if we have anything to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced upon us. It was on the 16th March, 1916, after getting orders about a fortnight before from Eamonn Ceannt at the direct request of P.H. Pearse, that I left my position in the City of Dublin, a position which I held for ten years, in order to prepare for the Rising. I left my job on 16th March and, on the 21st March, 1916, Senator Quirke in Tipperary was very much associated with our opponents. I have here a letter from the Clonmel Nationalist, dated 2nd September, 1933. I am only quoting it to show that, although Senator Quirke objects to converts, he himself is a convert to nationality, to the Irish Ireland movement. Here is the extract from the paper:—
"A correspondent writes pointing out that at the Fethard gift sale, held March 21st, 1916 (the year of the Rising), under the patronage of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in the Military Barracks yard, Fethard, in aid of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment Prisoners of War and the Red Cross Association, the donors of miscellaneous gifts included William Quirke (now Senator), a greyhound bitch, (pedigree at sale); Michael Quirke, two cases of wine.
Senator Quirke should remember this when he wishes to criticise or sling mud at those whom he looks on as West Britons, imperial henchmen, and turncoats in the country. The fact is significant as to his views a month before the Rising. Of course he had a right to any views he wished to hold, but the item mentioned appears somewhat strange in the face of his later attitude and utterances. Those who have doubts about the gift are referred to the files of the local paper of 1916."
I have no objection to Senator Quirke subscribing to the funds of the Red Cross at the time, but I think that to make himself prominent like that, giving them a greyhound and having it published, and another Quirke giving two cases of wine as an advertisement that they were on the side of the English—I think the man who does that has a damned cheek to ask me to-day what I have to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced upon me.
It is people like Senator Quirke who whisper through the country about this terrible Freemason Seanad. That is what the majority of the people in the country feel that it is, a Freemason Seanad. What are the facts? Out of 59 members there are 47 Catholics. A Catholic cannot be a Freemason and I am quite prepared to swear that, to the best of my belief, not a Catholic in this House is a Freemason. Of the others, who do not recognise the Pope as their spiritual leader, I would certainly say that there are not more than four Freemasons. I defy anybody to prove to me that there are more than four Freemasons. Nevertheless, the people are told that it is a Freemason Seanad.
I will now come on to what I intended to say. Only for Senator Quirke's speech I would not have digressed. I oppose this Bill because it was conceived in anger, it was born in panic and, as the Cathaoirleach's speech proved yesterday, it has been nurtured on falsehood. In the Oireachtas, when a Bill is taken up for consideration, we are accustomed to see it printed on green paper. That is the usual form. In this case, owing to anger and to panic, it is presented to us in the form of typescript on white paper and corrected in ink. It is, so to speak, presented to us in its swaddling clothes. Why? Because we had the audacity to hold up the Blueshirt Bill; because we had the audacity to stand between the would-be dictator and the lives and liberties of a very important and a very large section of the people of this country, and because we had the audacity to hold up the Army Bill. Instead of giving them 12 months lease of life to organise their Party force, we gave them only four months. That was the most serious crime we committed, according to the Minister for Defence, our war lord. It was an unforgivable crime for this House to give him only four months instead of 12 months to organise his swaddies.
We heard a lot about a mandate. The mandate as read out by Deputy Donnelly in the Dáil was this:—
"We propose to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted and, if it be decided to retain a Second Legislative Chamber, it is our intention to reduce considerably the number of its members."
He was asked to read on and he read:—
"We propose also to reduce substantially the number of Deputies in the Dáil."
That was in their mandate as well, but what are they doing with the Dáil? They are reducing the number in the Dáil by just exactly the number they are bound by law to reduce. They are not reducing the number substantially or anything like it. No, the Seanad must come in for it all because we do not agree with them in everything. I am quoting Deputy Donnelly again. He is a man of commonsense, and I happened to be listening to his speech. He is reported as follows in Volume 52, No. 4, column 1780, Official Debates:—
"I now come to what is evidently going to be the peroration to Deputy Dr. O'Higgins's speeches in this House—the machine majority, the rank and file, who vote as they are directed, and blindly follow one man. Of course we follow him. Of course we will follow him. As I said before, we followed him during the years he was in the wilderness. We followed him when he was behind prison bars. We followed him from the time of the Treaty, because we believed he was right. We follow him now because we believe he is right, and we know that he will finish the job."
Great words and brave! Deputy Donnelly might have added, and just as truthfully, "We will follow him to hell.' I ask the people if it is not time they called a halt and examined their consciences. Are they going blindly to follow one man, simply because he has that indefinable quantity called personality, without considering whether he is leading them rightly or wrongly? Are they going to follow him into the wilderness as they followed him in 1922? They followed him into the wilderness in 1922, out of it in 1926, into it again in 1934 and, perhaps, out of it some other time. Are we always going to play at in-and-out, in-and-out, following our leader? Let the people cast their minds back on the past few years. Let them cast them back to that fateful Sunday in 1916—Easter Sunday—when Mr. de Valera, against the collective wisdom of the whole Volunteer organisation, against the collective brains of the men who now lie in the prison grave at Arbour Hill, wanted to take the men of the 3rd Battalion out, wanted to make himself another Robert Emmet and have another Thomas Street. Emmet's rising in Thomas Street was glorious compared with what Mr. de Valera's would have been if he was let out with his 3rd Battalion on that Easter Sunday. He would not wait. He was in too much of a hurry, just as he was in bringing in this Bill. He would not wait until Monday until I handed him an order signed by Thomas McDonagh that he was not to proceed on Easter Sunday. The men would have been slaughtered if he had had his way and there would be no sympathy with them. It would be another case of "the fools."
Cast your minds back to 1922 and think of all the arguments used against the Treaty. These boiled down to the question of the Oath. When the Civil War was on, the Oath occupied the place that the "Freemason Seanad" occupied later. We fought a Civil War for the Oath. We had the best fellows on both sides killed—Lord have mercy on their souls—and does anybody with a conscience want another civil war? We fought a Civil War for the Oath in 1922 and the President swallowed the Oath in 1926. Deputy Donnelly and his friends followed President de Valera then and swallowed the Oath. The farmers are just as much to blame as anybody else because a lot of the farmers voted for President de Valera. They followed him in the economic war. Why? Because they felt that something was going to happen, that President de Valera was such a great personality and such a great man that nobody in this world could beat him. They thought that something was bound to happen. What has happened? You have the answer in the skinning of the calves. That is the end of the economic war. You have no sheep this year, practically no poultry and you will have no cattle next year. Consequently there is nothing to fight about; the economic war is ended. In the other House, a great deal was said about the independence of the Judiciary and of the Comptroller and Auditor-General if this House were abolished. It was said that the abolition of this House would interfere with the independence of the Judiciary and of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Another matter strikes me more forcibly than that. We all want the unity of Ireland. That is the thing nearest and dearest to me at the moment and I think the United Ireland Party are going about it in the right way. Fianna Fáil want it, too, but they are doing it in a different way. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, Mr. Seán T. O Ceallaigh, speaking at the Wolfe Tone Hall, Phibsboro', on 26th March, 1934, said:
"They would use every effort to re-establish a Republic for the thirty-two counties of Ireland. That was their aim and if the gun was necessary the people have the Government to direct the Army and they had the Volunteer force."
That is a very serious statement and it would not be made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council unless there was something in it. Suppose there is trouble in the North and we use the gun there and, as a consequence of that, a Conscription Bill is brought in, how will the people of Ireland stand? What have they between them and all that except the Seanad? It is nearly time the people of Ireland started to think for themselves and were not led by the rubbish that Senator Quirke and other people dish out to them.
I should like to refer to Senator Dowdall's comment on the length of time it took to put through this House Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill. I think that it is a pity that Senator Dowdall introduced that question. He seems to forget about the urgency of the Bill. He seems to forget that from the time of the "Cease Fire" order in 1922—leaving the Civil War out altogether—until that Act was passed, there were 28 political murders of civilians and ten murders of members of the Gárda Síochána. The Senator also forgets that, when the Public Safety Act, 1927, was brought into operation, these murders stopped, and in the year 1930 there were no political murders. From 1931 up to October, when the No. 17 Bill was passed, there were five political murders. No Government could stand that sort of thing. Murder at all times is wrong and bad, but political murders—assassinations—are the worst of all. No Government with any intention of governing could stand by and allow that state of things to continue. I think that the Seanad was perfectly justified in rushing that Bill. I should have rushed it in an hour, if necessary.
The discussion during the last few days, including the speeches of the Cathaoirleach and of Senator Douglas, dealt exhaustively with the theory of bicameral government and with the work of this House. I do not think that anything further could be usefully said in that direction. I myself look at the matters with which Senators dealt from a slightly different angle. The Cathaoirleach, Senator Brown, Senator Douglas, and others who spoke were members of the Seanad almost from the beginning and look at these matters from an angle that is natural to them. During most of the period of the life of the Seanad I was a member of the Dáil and a Minister, and I can say that the work of the Seanad during that period was of the utmost value to the State and of the utmost value to the people. I do not think that the value of the work of the Seanad can be altogether assessed. It cannot be well measured by a mere list of the amendments that were passed by the Seanad—amendments to various measures—or by any reference to the number of Bills held up because we have to consider, in this connection, the machinery of legislation. It is at the stage of preparation of legislation that a House like the Seanad can exercise its most valuable influence.
If we have a House that is impartial, that is independent and that will not follow the Government for Party interests, then that House influences legislation long before it comes here at all. It influences legislation at its very genesis. When civil servants and Ministers sit down to frame a Bill they have to consider not merely the problem that they are dealing with but the question of getting that Bill through the Oireachtas. They have to look at all the difficulties they will be up against in the Dáil; they have to look at how that legislation will be received at a Party meeting, and they have to consider what propaganda can be made in connection with it, and then they have to consider what case they can make, or may have to make, in the Seanad and what particular criticisms they may have to meet there. So that when anybody says that the Seanad exercised comparatively little influence on the course of legislation during the period of office of Cumann na nGaedheal, they speak without knowledge of the full facts of the case. Even Senator Colonel Moore acknowledged here to-day that Party ties were not strong in the Seanad. Very frequently, before Fianna Fáil came into the Dáil at all, Ministers were defeated in the Seanad. Amendments were carried in spite of their protests, so that the attitude of the Seanad had to be reckoned on when the legislation was being framed because we had not the attitude that Fianna Fáil has of provoking a quarrel with the Seanad, and of being anxious to have Bills thrown out. Very frequently the Seanad exercised its influence, as I have said, when Bills were being prepared. Measures, proposals and schemes were put on one side because we said:—
"Well, if that goes to the Seanad, it will be amended out of all recognition: because of the known views of the Seanad, it will be amended in such a way that it will not serve the purpose we want,"
or we said:—
"If that proposal is put before the Seanad it means that the Bill will be held up and we have to consider whether it is worth while waiting for it."
I can say that the impartial, non-Party, intelligent and patriotic attitude of the Seanad did have a most tremendous effect on legislation. Now it was natural that, when a measure came before the Seanad and the Seanad amended it against the wishes of a Minister, the Minister should experience some disappointment or some irritation, but it is very foolish and very short-sighted and wrong for a Minister to allow that temporary irritation or disappointment to influence his attitude about the constitutional machinery that is necessary. I think that we must in all fairness admit that it is difficult for any man to be a judge in his own case. It is very difficult for a Government contending with difficulties to take the long-sighted view always and to be prepared to submit to rebuffs. There is always the danger that members of a Government, if there is no independent check on them, in order to gain some immediate advantage which may not be a Party advantage at all—it may be an advantage for the country— will refuse to look far enough ahead and do something equivalent to what the Chinese is supposed to have done when he burned down his house in order to roast the pig.
There is always that danger: that members of a Government, when in difficulty, may adopt measures to remedy an existing evil that will cause greater evils. It seems to me to be necessary and invaluable that there should be a Chamber different from the Chamber in which the Government has a majority, a Chamber different in complexion—it could have some Party organisation though not organised on strictly Party lines— which will view proposals of the Government sympathetically but independently.
I think that all along, this Seanad has carried out its duties excellently. It has many a time amended Bills. Many of the amendments were in the way of suggestions that were readily accepted. At other times they were suggestions which were carried over the heads of Ministers. The Seanad has amended Bills and even held up Bills, but it has not shown at any time a disregard of the public interest or of the necessity of carrying on the work of the Oireachtas and of the Government. There were many times during the period of office of Cumann na nGaedheal when the Seanad passed Bills which many members, probably the majority of the members of the Seanad, objected to, but they passed them just as they passed certain Bills, referred to in the course of this debate, in connection with the economic war, because they felt that the Government was entitled to have them. One of the reasons why they did not hold up more Bills and why they did not amend more Bills was because, as I have said, Mr. Cosgrave's Government was not looking for quarrels with the Seanad. If there was a Bill which Mr. Cosgrave's Government knew that the Seanad were sure to object to, or reject, it would not introduce it unless there was an absolute necessity for doing so; unless it could feel that in those circumstances it could persuade the Seanad to adopt it.
There has been talk here about the Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act. The Seanad has been criticised for passing that Act. It seems to me that the Seanad could not have done otherwise than pass it. It is strange to me that no one at present objects to it. I know that that Act has been prostituted by the present Government and that lying declarations have been issued by the present Executive Council under it. For instance, in declaring the National Guard to be an Unlawful Association under that Act, the Cabinet put its seal to a deliberate lie. In spite of its prostitution by the Government the Act is being used mainly at the present time against very many of the people it was passed to deal with. Many of them who are now being brought before the Military Tribunal were members of organisations whose purpose was to destroy the peace and the stability of the State. It seems to me to be absolutely certain that some Act of the kind must continue in force in this country for generations. We cannot throw away the effects of our history in a few years, and particularly, if you like, the effects of our more recent history. We all know that the jury system is a most vulnerable thing: that a comparatively small gang of ruffians can make the jury system unworkable. You have such groups in this country and it seems to me that you will continue to have them. Before the Public Safety Act was passed the temporary protection that was given by the Jurors (Protection) Act had become ineffective. Murders were being committed. There was no chance of bringing the people who committed those murders, when caught, to justice through the jury system. It was essential that that Act should be passed. The only thing that remains to be said about the Public Safety Act is that the provisions in it should have been in our Constitution from the beginning.
If it had been in the original draft of the Constitution I think it would have been better for the country, and the evils that have grown up, and that have become chronic, could have been cut short and prevented by the drastic use of it. So far as the Seanad is concerned, if any member had any doubts about being right in voting for that Act, these doubts must have been dispelled by the fact that the Party that denounced it has been using it, and is likely to continue to do so. The Seanad was perfectly justified in passing it. If they had failed to pass it, it would be like failure to pass legislation in connection with the economic war.
There was talk of the Seanad being wrong in passing the Public Safety Act, but, on the other hand, it was suggested that the anti-Blueshirt Bill should have been passed. I think the Seanad showed its discrimination, its impartiality, its regard for the public interest, and the rights of the people by refusing to pass the Blueshirt Bill. When a proposal like that of the Blueshirt Bill is put forward, you have to look at the facts of the case, and at the history of the Government that proposes it. The Blueshirt organisation had committed no crimes; it had made no attacks either on the jury system or on the ordinary citizen. It had come into existence, in fact, to meet violence which the Government failed or refused to meet. The Blueshirt organisation would not have come into existence if the Government had not stimulated its followers to attack public meetings of the Opposition.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach took the Chair.
That is not so.
I have no hesitation in saying that the mob attacks on the Opposition were directly stimulated by the Government——
I say that is not true, and the Senator knows that.
——and by various Ministers. You had vile vituperation by the Minister for Finance. You had statements by the Minister for Defence, and the statement by the President, about inability to make causes popular. You had hypocritical denunciation of these crimes almost followed by incitement— something like winking the other eye. I have no hesitation in saying they are still being stimulated by the Government.
That is not true.
Denunciations by the Government and of the steps taken by the Government show that they have— if possible without carrying it to the pitch that it would react fatally—the desire to prevent the Opposition——
That is a desperate statement.
On a point of order, can the Senator really say that the President and Ministers have——
That is not a point of order.
Can the Senator say——
That is not a point of order. Please sit down, Senator.
After all the statements they wink an eye at these things by saying: "We cannot make unpopular people popular," which is something equivalent to saying: "I had to say this, but, go ahead." The thing is as plain as a pikestaff, and is one of the most scandalous things that this Government have done. The Blueshirt organisation was formed because violence was not dealt with by the Government as it could have been dealt with. The Blueshirt organisation was not doing anything that could be objected to. I do not say that every member of it was a saint. I do not say that an individual never did something which he should not have done. But there was no attempt to interfere with Fianna Fáil meetings; nothing that could bring any discredit on, or cause any objection to, the Blueshirt organisation as a body. Its real fault was that it was attracting the young people who had been previously seduced into organisations like the I.R.A. because there was nothing else that made an appeal to them. The Blueshirts' organisation was attracting to it and was creating a political machine that threatened to defeat Fianna Fáil. It is because of that the Blueshirt Bill was brought in. It seems to me, merely because you had all sorts of arguments adduced from the Continent, where conditions are different, if the Seanad had passed the Bill it would have been a gross dereliction of duty on its part.
It seems to me that if we look back over the work of the Seanad, we see independence, we see impartiality and constant regard for the interests of the community. I can understand Ministers being irritated. I was irritated myself when something I had managed to get through the Dáil, perhaps after a struggle, was turned down in the Seanad. At any rate, those who were colleagues of mine were not so foolish as to turn sour over a temporary defeat, or to pull down the house because the window was banging, or something of that nature. I say that this Bill to abolish the Seanad, if it is passed, and comes into operation, will, for all practical purposes, in the circumstances that exist here, end parliamentary government. There are no safeguards in it. The safeguards that the President spoke of the other day, the symmetry which he introduced in the Dáil, are entirely illusory. It is probable that Senator Brown or Senator Douglas was right in suggesting that this new four-sevenths clause could be removed by majority vote. Even if it was not removed by majority vote, the Dáil might cease to be elected on the principle of proportional representation, so that there would be nothing in the Constitution, as it would stand after this Bill was passed, to prevent the Dáil passing a new Article to permit of co-option, and to get a four-sevenths majority in a day. If this Bill passes the position will be that any judge who displeases the Government by a judgment can be removed by the Dáil and the Comptroller and Auditor-General if he utters any criticism of the Government's financial proposals can be dealt with. The Government, if it likes, can prolong the life of the Dáil from five to ten or fifteen years.
One might find a Government which could be temporarily entrusted with such powers. I do not think any Government should ever be entrusted, or could with safety be entrusted, with such powers. I was a member of a Government which made great sacrifices, politically and otherwise, to maintain democratic principles; one that took great risks on many occasions, political and personal, to maintain democratic principles. Even with experience of that Government, I would say that no Government can be entrusted with the powers which the Government with a majority in the Dáil would have, if this Bill passes. It has been pointed out that no Government in Europe or in the world has such powers as are now being sought. A very exceptional and virtuous Government might, perhaps, be trusted with such powers for a month or for half a year in a crisis. I do not think the present Government with its record, and the record of its members, is one that could be trusted for an hour with these powers. I am certain they would be abused, and I believe the intention is to abuse them. We may not always refer to past crimes or errors, but we cannot afford to leave out of our minds the fact that these were the men who in 1922 and 1923 went out against majority rule, and caused bloodshed and destruction through the country. Their attitude on many occasions since, the very petulance of their attack on the Seanad shows there is no change.
I do not believe this Bill was in cold storage but was simply brought in as a vicious action. I believe, as Senator Staines has suggested, that it was born in rage, after they had been defeated in the Seanad, that it was introduced in typescript, and that the actual text could not be produced for it. It was obvious that the drafting had to begin after the Bill was introduced. It seems patent that you have this intolerant rage, this spirit of dictatorship in the Government, which caused the present members to lead an armed attack on majority rule in 1922-23, their prostitution of the Public Safety Act, the issue of lying proclamations under that Act, the various prosecutions and other illegal acts that they instituted, their treatment of General O'Duffy and his dismissal from the police force without any charge being preferred against him, the formation of this partisan military force which they have organised through men whose only qualification seems to be that they fought against the majority of the people and tried to wreck the State and to cause damage in 1922 and 1923. There may be one or two of them to whom that does not fully apply.
It seems to me that if this Bill is passed and it comes into effect, so far as this Government can manage it, there will be an end to all political liberty or constitutional rule in this country. If they are not able to end democratic institutions, it will only be because there will be a popular organisation so strong that they cannot succeed in that. I believe myself that the Blueshirt organisation, as a popular organisation, will be so strong that even if this Government succeeds in putting this Bill on the Statute Book, even if it happens to win the actions in the courts which will test the validity of this Bill, that organisation will be able to prevent the establishment of dictatorial rule, whether Communistic, semi-Communistic or merely Mexican in this country. As I said, every Government has to have some checks, more checks than are provided by the Party meeting of its supporters in the Dáil. I admit that the Party meeting that a Government has to face is a check, but the Dáil as a whole is not a check if the Government has a majority, since the Dáil is merely divided into the majority and the opposition. The Party meeting is some check, but I do think that any Government needs a check greater and more impartial than the Party meeting.
There are various ways by which you can get these checks. You can have a referendum, a rigid Constitution and all sorts of provisions about a referendum. I think, however, the referendum would be of little use in this country. It may be that in a country like Switzerland the referendum works fairly well, but that is a federal country and has a special history. I cannot imagine that the referendum procedure would work well in this country, where, in fact, there is a great deal of political apathy amongst large sections of the people and then very strong Party feeling amongst those who are politically active. I feel that a referendum would be of no use in this country in getting the view of the people.
Then there are other schemes like that which exists in Finland, where there is a presidential veto or the giving to an individual of a delaying power over Bills. I do not think that would be much use here. It seems to me that of all the checks that can be applied the one which is most effective, most flexible, which causes the least delay and the least expense to the people is that of the Second Chamber. I think that that Second Chamber must be different in complexion and in texture to the First Chamber. If they are not different, the effect is largely lost. Personally, I do not think that the present arrangements for electing the Seanad are the best arrangements. They were adopted really because the first scheme proved so unsatisfactory and ineffective, and something had to be put in its place. I think that whole matter might bear a good deal of consideration. Personally, I may say that I think, with the present tasks that fall to a Government, the best arrangement would be to have a political chamber and an economic chamber, one chamber elected on some sort of political basis and another as representing the economic organisation of the country. You might have the Dáil as a political chamber and the Seanad as an economic chamber, or the Seanad as a political chamber and the Dáil as an economic chamber—I do not think it would matter which— but I do say that it is entirely retrograde and evil to concentrate all power, as this Bill proposes, entirely in the hands of an individual political dictator or an individual with some sort of group around him.
I rather think that what is needed to broaden government is something in the nature of what Senator Dowdall suggested to-day—to try to devise machinery that will give the people continuous control over national policy. I think some such machinery can be devised by creating economic organisations which will have their share in the elaboration of policy and in the execution of policy according to the various industrial interests they would represent. I do say finally that the charges that are made against the Seanad are unfounded, in my opinion. I believe that to a very large extent they are dishonestly made and that the purpose of this Bill is not even to punish the Seanad. It is not to get rid of something that the Government believes to be useless, but it is simply an effort to gather all power into the hands of the people who were defeated in their attempt to override by force the majority will in 1922 and 1923 and who, I believe, were mistakenly let go unpunished at that time.
Does any other Senator wish to speak?
I move the adjournment of the House now.
Are you going to take a vote on the Bill now?
Does any other Senator wish to speak?
I am afraid, Sir, I shall not be able after this long debate to introduce much new matter, but I hope to be able to present certain new aspects of the problem and to show, if I may say so, new facets of the matter we have been discussing. The Chairman in his speech showed, I think, conclusively, that the action of this House had been neither obstructive nor malign, in fact that it had been rather the reverse and that on many occasions we stayed our hand in the interests of peace and even acted against our better judgment; that we had not done things we felt that in other circumstances we might and should have done—in fact, that we sought, as sensible people, compromise and accommodation under rather difficult circumstances. The Chairman gave, as you will recollect, the figures of the actual practical work we did, showing the very large number of amendments passed through this House during the 12 years the House has been in existence and the very large proportion of these amendments —somewhere about 90 per cent. at least—that were accepted by the other House. If I may cite only one recent instance in amplification of that, only a fortnight ago, on the Town and Regional Planning Bill, I think, there were 17 Government amendments accepted by this House. Surely that in itself, although it was a non-controversial Bill, represents useful service on our part and shows conclusively the value of some Chamber, where, as the outcome of discussion and also of unofficial representation, things may be remedied at the last moment, so that to a large extent amending legislation may be avoided. I am sure if it were possible to consult civil servants or the parliamentary draftsmen, who have to deal with the practical aspect of legislation, they would say with one accord that this House has been of enormous value in the day-to-day administrative work of the Government.
Personally, I am sure that I feel I possibly differ with some of my colleagues with regard to the record in this House. I am making no claims that it should stand in a white sheet, or that it has not made mistakes. I think if this House had greater vision, and if it had its eyes open enough— of course it is easy to be wise after the event—it might have prevented the situation with which we are faced to-day. I feel that this House by its action in removing the Referendum, and by its subsequent action, in extending the period from eight to sixteen years within which the Constitution could be amended by ordinary legislation, removed the effective control of this House and opened the door to the further inroads on the Constitution that are being made to-day. But that is no reason for its abolition. It should be rather a warning to us to be more vigilant in future and not to be led along the road of short views by the late Government, as to what we should do, but to be detached as far as possible from current controversy, and to try to look ahead calmly, as we ought to be able to do, removed largely from the conflicts of the dead past. But function and performance are totally different things. Our function remains, although it may have been, in some respects, imperfect in performance. What will be, in fact, the position when this House is gone? I do not propose to examine that in detail. It has been dealt with by many speakers, but roughly speaking, it will be this: A dictatorship of the Dáil renewable every five years by the will of the people.
The President says there is no other check than the good sense of one House of the elected representatives. But I think we have to address ourselves to the harm even in spite of this House, that has happened in past years. And we have to realise that unrestricted government, through one Chamber only, could work disaster in a period of five years. In looking at this thing, from as detached an attitude as possible, we should have regard to what is the policy of the Government. As frequently stated, the policy of the Government is to create what may be called a Socialistic State. Their policy is to break away, if possible, from all tradition; to abandon the basis of evolution and gradual change; to cut away, and in the shortest time possible, to remove all poverty and to equalise all wealth. Their policy is to establish a totally new agricultural system, to banish the bullock from the land, to have a country of smallholders, self-supporting, to have an industrial policy, and largely an industrial State manufacturing a large number of things that have never been manufactured before and which the country is ill-fitted to manufacture, either by natural circumstances or by tradition.
All this is complete change! The policy that is in the mind of the Government is the policy of idealism, hasty and unrestrained. I can see that through ignorance, rather than through idealism and through violent dislocation, a policy of that kind can bring about disaster in a period of five years. I do suggest that for those of us whose belief in old traditional practice, that government is a thing of slow progress, little by little, bit by bit, run with cautions and prudent finance, on the old established methods of gradual revision and step by step—those who believe in that old well-tried system which makes no violent changes with the past take up the attitude of the realist; and that attitude will be completely swept aside if a Government like the one we have to-day has no Second Chamber to check its headlong course.
The existence of a Second Chamber in most civilised countries is not a question of accidents. That matter has been gone into at great length, and I do not propose to cover the same ground. But I would suggest that finding it so universal all over the world, it has good reason in human nature, and although that is a thing that you cannot prove, still the coincidence and fact that it is so widespread is surely good reason that it is the outcome of experience of the countries that have been long in the game of politics, and have had their own government for a much longer time than we have.
The President talked in a free and easy way about the will of the people. What is the will of the people? Has anyone set out to see what the will of the people is? We may know the will of individuals; and many individuals are not quite sure what their own will is. But the will of the people is nothing that anyone can typify. It is some abstract thing. some intangible thing. The jury system. I understand, had its origin in the will of the people. But look at what the jury system is. It is not a question of allowing even 12 good men and true uncontrolled will without skilled direction. It is addressed by skilled advocacy and directed most carefully by a judge within the limits of the law of evidence. It is, I understand, the outcome of early attempts to apply, in a practical way, the will of the people, but it is applied under well-known and established safeguards. You have to bear this in mind. Look at the jury system here. Senator Blythe said that the jury system here had no application and was not safe in this country. It has always been affected by high feeling and inflammability, and other forces that constitute in the will of the people an unrestrained and dangerous weapon. We have the will of the people in reference to the referendum. It is rather interesting, if I may quote a passage from Maine's Popular Government, to show how the will of the people works in practice:—
"It is possible by agitation and exhortation to produce in the mind of the average citizen a vague impression that desires a particular change. But, when the agitation has settled down on the dregs, when the excitement has died away, when the subject has been threshed out, when the law is before him in all its detail he is sure to find in it much that is likely to disturb his habits, his ideas, his prejudices and his interests; he votes ‘No' to most proposals."
—Now, that is an authority—a well-recognised authority—who has studied this whole question of political science, and it has been proved that, whatever the will of the people may cast up, when the matter is put in form and appears in an actual Bill and the people have had time to think it over, more often than not they think better as to their first votes. Surely, with that established fact it is highly dangerous to hand over power to a Single Chamber Government which has gained a small majority as a result, perhaps, of an election fought on a whole variety of issues.
I wonder, for instance, even to-day, what would be the will of the people on this question of the land annuities? I should like to have that question tested. If you were to say to the people: "Go back to your old position, pay your land annuities, and, if you do so, you will get your market back," I am not at all certain that they would not think it better to be back where they were before than to be suffering as they are to-day by the ill-considered policy of their present rulers. The President quoted that great Liberal economist, John Stuart Mill, as one opposed to a Second Chamber. On that mere statement the President was right, but where I join issue with the President is in the way he argues and takes a bit from one person and a bit from the other, and in the way he wrests statements from their context and makes a totally misleading case. I would accept gladly, and I think most of us would accept gladly, John Stuart Mill in his entirety. What was his creed? He was in favour of plural voting. Would the President be in favour of that? In one case he was in favour of three votes. Would the President be in favour of that? John Stuart Mill was a Free Trader and a believer in laissez faire. Would the President like that? I think that it is very unfair to take one part of a person's statement as to policy and to say that he was in favour of that policy without letting the House know the whole story.
Then we had the Abbé Sieyés, whom the President quoted. History has proved the Abbé Sieyés to be rather a charlatan and a man who had a constitution for almost every day in the year. The President quotes him as saying that if a Second Chamber acts it is mischievous, and if it does not act it is no use. Perhaps the President does not know where that saying originally comes from. That saying of Abbé Sieyés is a parody of the reply that the Caliph Omar gave to his lieutenant about the Alexandrian books—a reply which caused them to be burnt—
"If the books differ from the Book of the Prophet, they are impious; if they agree, they are useless."
Accordingly, that statement of the Abbé Sieyés is not original and, of course, it has no real bearing on the matter under consideration.
I wonder if the President, in trying to examine this intangible factor of the will of the people, would rather get away from all this current controversy and look at some great thinker, some great dramatist. I suggest, although he is an Englishman, that the President should address himself to that man of great genius, William Shakespeare, who knew every aspect of human thought, who was the greatest student of human nature and the greatest psychologist the world has ever known. Probably, Senators will remember the play, Julius Caesar, where Shakespeare deals in his masterly fashion with the will of the people, as we are pleased to call it—that great safeguard of the President—I am glad to see that the President is here at last—that great safeguard of the will of the people that is going to secure the State against all hasty action. Senators will remember the lines of Brutus over the corpse of Julius Cæsar—
"Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply."
Citizens,“None, Brutus, none.”
And then, a few moments afterwards, over the same corpse, what does Antony say?—
"I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts;...
For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men's blood."
Senators will remember how it goes on. What does the same crowd say in answer to Antony's oration? They say: "We'll, we'll burn the House of Brutus." That was the will of the people, then. That is true to life, as that great dramatist, Shakespeare, saw it in all his writings, and this is the great safeguard to which the President asks us to give unrestricted power in the government of this country.
Let me pause for a minute, if I may, to examine the aspect of popular will as we find it at home. Hitherto, I have dealt with the general aspect of the question. Surely anybody who knows the country must admit that our people, with all our charm and imagination, lack, in a singular degree, commonsense and stability. One knows how mercurial public opinion is, how easy it is to rouse them, and how easy it is for any Government so disposed to set a stage for a successful election.
You have only got to put factories where the forces are weak and to give a judicious expenditure of relief money; to promise perhaps further inroads into the rights of property owners and, land legislation being done, to start on town property. Nothing easier than to raise an election on a situation so created. In fact I suggest that there is no country where political bribery is easier than it is here. If you fail in political bribery and if material considerations are not sufficient, you can always play on that brooding spirit of national wrong, and always offer some intangible ideal of freedom; you can always abuse some foreign power that is holding the country in bondage. I suggest that is a very dangerous foundation on which to build up a Government solely depending upon whatever may be thrown up by a hurried or snap election. Is it not a traditional fact that in the old days our factions fought about the colour of a cow? We are now fighting about the colour of a shirt and all the time we remain blind to the real truths of government.
So much for the will of the people. Now what about the will of the Dáil? That will be the next safeguard for the new State when the Second Chamber is gone. I do not in the least wish to be personal, but we have to face facts. Is it suggested that there is, except, perhaps, amongst a few selected Deputies, any real knowledge of the science or functions of government, any real understanding which would enable our elected representatives to appreciate the real reason and inwardness of a Second Chamber or some other form of control? Is there that real understanding amongst the Deputies? How many Deputies in the Dáil could pass a simple examination in the science or philosophy of government, such an examination as, perhaps, a secondary schoolboy would have to pass before he went on to a university?
Again, to what extent has the Dáil ever shown itself really open to argument? Have we any record or proof that any argument however convincing has changed any vote or modified the attitude of any Party in the Dáil? I suggest in that respect we are entirely different and, perhaps, with good reason, from old established bodies like the House of Commons. It is well known in the House of Commons that arguments frequently change the attitude of the Government. Mutinous back benchers of the Conservative Party to-day are a constant source of embarrassment to the Government, and, even if changes are not made openly, argument percolates through the Party Whips. There is that independent support and intellectual freedom there which is totally absent as far as one can see in the Dáil as we know it to-day. And it is to that body that we propose to give over the sole control, the overriding control, in the government of this country.
Moreover—and we cannot ignore facts—some members of that body are in material dependence upon the Government. They cannot afford to show the independence that they may feel on great issues—this would also apply to others. For that reason there is an extraordinary danger. You have tied members—there is no doubt about it—who could not, in many cases, show that independence which the country would need in a time of crisis. It is to that body that we propose now, under this measure, to hand over complete control of the country.
What about the next stage in this hierarchy? What about the Government themselves? After all they are the leaders of the Dáil and they are the originators of legislation. I see there that the omens are equally dangerous. It is perhaps to be expected, but there is no sign at present that our rulers have ceased to be really anything but politicians. They have remained politicians although, naturally as a result of being a Government, they have acquired certain externals of the parliamentary manner and conduct, but they remain in their hearts politicians, and only politicians.
There is no evidence as far as one can see that they have ever grasped the science of statesmanship. I do not make that suggestion except on good grounds. Look at the statement made only last week by the Minister for Defence, where he said: "If the farmers will not grow wheat, the Government will have to see whether they will be allowed to keep their land," or words to that effect. Look at the statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he fulminates against the Granards and the Jamesons. Look at the whole campaign of calumny which the Cathaoirleach exposed yesterday when he dealt with the attacks on this House. Perhaps it is understandable because of the stress and bitterness of the Civil War such a short time ago, that our rulers have not acquired that attitude of detachment, that divorcement from politicians pure and simple that we should see if we were to give them these wide powers for which this Bill asks.
And then we come to the Colossus that strides over all this, the President himself. We have to look at things as we see them and we have to be prepared for the worst, though the worst may not ensue. Look at Europe and the omens at home. I think it right to say that if we are to have a dictator the President himself is likely to fill that position. It may be remote from his thoughts now. He may not necessarily be the absolute dictator one sees on the Continent, but you may have your Government so much under the control of one man and your Parliament so docile and servile that in effect the President will be a dictator.
I never was so sure of the President's mentality until we had this debate, and this debate has filled me with alarm. The Cathaoirleach and Senator Douglas dealt so conclusively with the case that the President made against the Second Chamber that no impartial person could have the least doubt that the President did not bother over the preparation of his case; or that he did not check the people who briefed him; or that he was not able to put up a case. Because the statements he made were torn to shreds especially by Senator Douglas with regard to the extracts from Barthélemy, the French professor. But the President showed that the arguments and reasons put forward had no effect whatever on him. The Seanad was to go and anything is good enough. That is his attitude. It is an attitude that I am afraid fills one with great alarm when it is witnessed in the case of one who fills the high position of responsibility that he holds. I suggest it has been a most interesting development in the President's public attitude, because heretofore he has always kept away from argument. He has never dealt with his opponents' case. He has always simply said: "I have heard nothing to convince me that a Second Chamber is any good," and left it at that. This is the first time I know he has ever come down to attempt to reason, to attempt references and to give a stated case, and such a deplorable case as he made in his closing speech in the Dáil fills one with alarm that he should be entrusted with the great power which this Bill connotes.
The Cathaoirleach resumed the Chair.
I make no reference to his hurried departure from the House yesterday except to say that I do feel it was a studied act—or an act, studied or not—of discourtesy on an important occasion of this kind not to be present to hear the arguments— no doubt they would make no impression—which he would have to meet. What is, in actual practice, the power of this House to obstruct the will of the people? From the way in which the President talks, one would think that we had an absolute veto for all time on legislation, while, as the House knows, the most we can do is to hold up a Bill for 18 months. We cannot hold up a Money Bill, and, in the course of a few months, we will be able to hold up Bills only for a period of three months, provided, of course, that other developments do not intervene. It is only really, in actual practice, a barrier to hasty action, and yet the President would lead the country to believe that no Government can function, that it is obstructed at every turn and that this House is an evil, reactionary body standing in the way of the people. Nothing is further from the fact and any Government which has its plans made can perfectly well arrange its time-table so that a period of delay could not embarrass its work in the very least.
It appears to one that the President has got all the missionary zeal in the country—no one must cross his path; his word must go and that is an end of it. Nobody is to choose, irrespective of the science of government or of what checks are needed in legislation—out of the way; clear the road; we are the saviours of the country; we will put all this thing right and there can be no delay. There is just one small point—how inconsistent that all is with the attitude of the Government with respect to the county councils. What about the elected representatives on the county councils? Are they not just as competent as the elected representatives to the Dáil and are they not bound hand and foot by the central authority? There is no question of the will of the people there—fettered and controlled in every direction by the higher authority. What applies in one case should apply in the other. We talk of this measure —and, of course, in effect it is so—as leaving the Dáil as the sole body concerned with legislation in the country, but I am sure the House realises that in the strict law, there are three bodies, or three authorities, concerned with government in this country. There is the King; there is the Seanad and there is the Dáil. Now, the King is gone or rather, the King is put into a position of mere formal impotence, but is it suggested for a moment that the King or his representative was never of any value in the affairs of the State? Without any knowledge beyond that gained from history and from reading the diaries of past sovereigns and from what is generally known, the sovereign has a very valuable influence, although he is only a constitutional monarch, on the functions of government in Great Britain and I have no doubt, and, in fact, it is well-known, that he is consulted by his Ministers on projected legislation and that, merely by virtue of his detached position, his advice is of the greatest value.
In the same way, in all the other Dominions but this unfortunate Dominion, the King's representative is honoured, recognised and treated with the dignity due to his position and, no doubt, is consulted by his Ministers and, no doubt, his Ministers welcome his advice. Under the last Government, that was the position here. When Mr. Healy, an honoured Irishman, was Governor-General, I have no doubt whatever he was consulted and that he gave valuable counsel and the same with Mr. MacNeill—a trained administrator, who served the Empire —excuse me for using the word "Empire" but you cannot give up your old habits—with distinction. It would have been possible even for the President to have found somebody more or less in sympathy with the point of view of his Government, who would have filled that office with honour and dignity and whose advice would be of value. Instead of that we have the course that has been taken and we know the harm it has done the country not only in the eyes of the sister Dominions but in the eyes of the whole world.
At the outset, I said that I hoped to present the problem involved in this Bill in a somewhat different light from that of other speakers. I have tried to show that, apart from historical experience and practice in other countries, our people want, above all, that check on excess that experience has shown to be necessary elsewhere. The people themselves are impulsive and easily roused. The many have envious eyes on the limited possessions of the few. I further attempted to show that neither the Dáil nor the Government nor the President himself offered, by experience, by temperament or by sense of responsibility, the qualities of a stable Government. For this reason it is nothing short of madness to sweep aside, in a fit of petulance, the power of delay and the important means of examination and criticism that this House affords. But I fear the spirit of faction is abroad. Tempers are inflamed; honour—or what some may value more, high personal reputation— is involved. Like the dispute with England, it is a war to a finish and confound the consequences. Bereft of all evidence of statesmanship, is it surprising that thinking people are anxious? What does it matter—the thinkers are few and those who do not understand are many, and they all have votes. After twelve years of self-government, we had reason to expect something better, to have more evidence of the high purpose that animated our early days. We might have hoped that the men guiding our destiny would be of the type who
"Seeing far an end sublime,
Contend, despising Party rage,
To hold the spirit of the age
Against the spirit of the time."
Instead of that, we have those who "Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war." No wonder some Irishmen despair.
I wonder what would be the desire of the House about the time of adjournment?
I beg to move the adjournment of the House.
Not at this moment.
I beg to second that.
I think this sort of thing is altogether wrong. I come 150 miles to attend this House for a couple of hours, and it is altogether wrong for people, who have something to do down the country, to have to travel that distance; to sit only for two hours; and then to see a gentleman get up to move the adjournment of the House until the next day. We have something else to do. Surely to goodness we can imitate the Dáil in one respect by sitting until 10.30 at least?
Had we not a programme arranged?
It was not definitely arranged. The arrangement was that we should sit until 8 o'clock last night and that to-day we should decide, when we saw the course of business, whether we should continue or meet to-morrow if necessary. I am in the hands of the House, but I think we ought to tell the President what we propose to do, because I take it he will wind up the debate. A great many Senators have told me that they wish to speak, and I do not think we could finish before midnight. I think it would be better for some Senator to continue the debate now until 8 o'clock and then adjourn until to-morrow at 11 o'clock.
I suggest that you carry out the programme arranged and go on until 8 o'clock and then reassemble to-morrow.
It was not arranged that we should adjourn at 8 o'clock to-night.
There is a motion before the Seanad.
As a motion to adjourn is before the House, and as the argument for it has been stated, am I in order in stating the other argument, which is: that I am one of those who have had to come a considerable distance to attend the Seanad and I have been here for two days. I do not want, however, to see this debate ended in the kind of way in which it will be ended if we go on any longer to-night. There are many elderly members of this House and I think it is an outrageous thing to compare it with the Dáil, which largely consists of very much younger men.
I move that we adjourn at 8 p.m. until to-morrow.
I move an amendment that we continue until 10.30 p.m.
What time do we meet to-morrow?
Eleven o'clock is the usual time on Fridays.
I was glad to hear Senator Blythe make reference to what might be called the quantitative test of the value of the Seanad's work. A good deal of stress was laid upon the number of amendments introduced into Bills in this House during the last couple of years and in previous years. I was interested in the figures that Senator Westropp Bennett gave. I was, however, more interested in the suggestion that occurred in his speech that certain other figures that he had were too complicated to read out, but that they would appear in the Official Report. I think that was the purport of the interjection and I am curious to know by what means the unread figures will appear in the Official Report. Whatever device is adopted for securing their appearance in the Official Report, I hope it will be found possible to indicate also the number of those amendments that were consequential upon previously carried amendments, the number that were introduced as a result of promises made in the Dáil that they would be introduced in the Seanad, and the number that were proposed by the Government, or on behalf of the Government. I do not think it makes any difference in fact except to show the folly of trying to judge the value of the Seanad's work by the number of amendments inserted in Bills. I was very much surprised that so much effort and time have been wasted in codifying or collecting such records as that.
Coming to a more important matter, I have been rather waiting for the discussion to turn on to what I think are the relatives underlying this question. I think that Senator The McGillycuddy and Senator Sir John Keane came nearest to what I consider the realities. I cannot help but relate the position to-day to the position in 1922, in 1919, and in fact in 1916, and realise that we are not dealing now with a settled, generally accepted constitutional position. This is an amendment to the Constitution. The Constitution was devised, in the first place, by a Committee, as the result of a revolutionary effort which had partially succeeded. The best minds that were available devised the Constitution. That Constitution contained a considerable number of very valuable safeguards for democracy, or liberty, and promises to ensure the development of democratic liberty and democratic control. There were limitations put into the draft immediately before it was, in fact, submitted to the Assembly whose duty it was to enact that Constitution.
I am not going to raise a controversy upon those limitations, those provisions that were imposed upon the so-called Constituent Assembly. I want, however, to draw attention to the fact that, from that time onwards until the time that Senator The McGillycuddy spoke of under the old Administration, there were 17 or 18 amendments to that Constitution. Everyone of them was a retrogression from the position of democratic liberty that had been secured in the original Constitution and which gave promise of definite progress towards the ideals at which those who had made the revolution had aimed. These retrogressive amendments to the Constitution were all adopted by this House. When a change took place, and a series of other amendments to the Constitution were proposed, and when other Bills, aiming at reversing engines and getting back to the position which the revolution sought to accomplish, were introduced, then this House became the brake and the retarding influence upon progress to that old position. That seems to me to be the crux of this issue. We are in a transition stage. A political revolution was attempted which, to some of us, gave promise of a social and economic revolution. The political revolution was thwarted, but contained the seeds of further development. This House has helped in the retardation of the further development and, in this transition, we are asked to decide whether the House will be allowed to continue that retarding influence.
We are not dealing with the abstract question of a Second Chamber revising, modifying, and delaying the ordinary legislative projects put forward by a Ministry.
We are dealing with a political revolution, and the issue, to my mind, is whether the reactionary forces are to prevail or whether the progressive or, if you like, the revolutionary forces, are to prevail. I am for the revolutionary forces and, therefore, I am going to support this Bill with certain provisos. Somebody said—and this is somewhat of an anti-climax—that the extent, the degree, of the feeling in opposition to this Bill could, even in the Dáil, be tested by the figures on the Second Reading and the figures on the Final Stage of the Bill. It was pointed out that there were only 54 votes for the Bill on the Final Stage and 38 against. Senator Wilson interjected that it was a Friday and, as a consequence, the House was small. But the amount of antipathy to the Bill as represented by the vote in the Dáil can be measured by reference to 38 votes against a possible 68, which is the number of the Opposition. Even on the Second Reading there were only 51 votes against the motion for the Second Reading of this Seanad Abolition Bill, as we may call it.
It is worth while recalling again, as I have done before in this House, that the Constitution itself which set up the Chamber was passed in a House of 128 members; at least, 128 members or so had been originally elected to it. The highest vote ever recorded for any of the Articles of the Constitution was about 50 and for the Second Reading only 47, so that we are dealing with a Constitution which was passed by 47 votes in a House of 128. The fact that since that date there have been two influences at work must be taken into consideration. One influence has been to declare the stage of political progress arrived at by that Constitution as being fixed and stable and accepted as settled. The other influence has attempted to work from that as a starting point and move ahead to the ideals which were at the back of those who conducted the revolutionary movement. We are, therefore, in this position, that we are dealing with an issue as to whether or not the political situation that has been created, the political institutions that have been established, by that Constitution are fixed for all time, or whether there is to be a move forward in the direction of the ideals of those who made the revolution.
People have expressed certain doubts, hesitations and fears as to what might happen in this country at the instigation of this Government if there is no Seanad to put a brake upon the headlong drive to destruction. Well, I am afraid that all the signs are that this Ministry will not do what I believe the Ministry ought to do in regard to radical changes in the social economic system. I hope that they will see before very long that it will be necessary for them to use the powers that they will get to do the things that are necessary—to secure bread, food, clothes and houses for the people. I believe that this House, judging by the things that have been said here yesterday and to-day, will do everything possible to prevent the passage of the measures which are absolutely necessary and, in my opinion, which will prove to be necessary before the real, reconstructive measures that are required will be passed into law. I have not any excessive confidence that the Ministry will run the risks of establishing a state of economic justice. I am afraid that the influences are too strong for them; that the conservative influences are great enough to remove any fears from those Senators who have expressed their anxiety to-day.
Now, having spoken that way in regard to what might be called vital measures, I am still of the opinion which I expressed in July, 1933, and which Senator Milroy quoted. I think a Second Chamber is needed, or at least some means to check a Government which seeks to override what has been declared to be the will of the people, to retard the developments that the people have indicated their desire to achieve. There is some need to prevent a Ministry doing what the last Ministry in this country did from 1922 to 1929. Ministries are apt, as all Executives are apt, to become self-centred and to use their power unreasonably. I think it is an inevitable tendency in Executives, no matter where they may be or what kind of institution they may be dealing with, to use their power unreasonably. They require to be prodded forward, they require to be urged, they require to be checked, and, if I had any confidence that there was going to be a change in the methods of the conduct of affairs in the representative Chamber, I would have less fear of trusting them absolutely to do their work.
But I think that when considering the question of legislative checks, legislative prods, one has to take into account the practice of Party government in the Dáil. Senator Blythe spoke about the Party meeting, and there, I think, he gave away something which most of us know something about, but not very much. It was a frequent point of criticism of my own when I was in the Dáil that the Government were inclined to treat the Party meeting as of very much more importance than the Dáil, and one does not know to what extent Ministries expound their legislative proposals before a Party meeting and divulge information to that Party meeting without having regard to what the Dáil might do. One finds that tendency to deal with a thing in a manner that is entirely outside any constitutional provision—to treat a Party meeting as something very much more influential and authoritative than the Legislature itself, and the consequence is that you do not get criticism on the Committee Stages of Bills which a proper representative Chamber ought to engage in.
I think that, in considering what is to replace the Seanad, the Ministry ought to have regard to the fact that the practices which have developed—I was going to say had become fixed, but I hope they are not fixed—since 1922, are alien to any satisfactory system of representative government. When the Executive has been elected, it is not the servant of the Party but the servant of the representative House. The representative House, as a whole, ought to have first consideration, and not the Party meeting. As a consequence of that, I believe it would be possible to encourage very much closer and more critical examination of Bills once the Second Reading had been accepted.
I move the adjournment of the debate.